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GABRIEL GARCIA MARQUEZ was bom in Aracataca, Colombia in 1928, but he has lived most of 
his life in Mexico and Europe. He attended the University of Bogota and later worked as staff 
reporter and film critic for the Colombian newspaper El Espectador. In addition to ONE HUNDRED 
YEARS OF SOLITUDE, he has also written two collections of short fiction, NO ONE WHITES TO THE 
COLONEL and LEAF STORM (both available in Bard editions). 

Garcia Marquez currently lives with his wife and children in Barcelona. 



Other Avon Bard Books by 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez 


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This book was first published in Argentina in 1967 by Editorial Sudamericana, S.A., Buenos Aires, under the title Gen Anos de Soledad. 
Assistance for the translation of this volume was given by the Center for Inter-American Relations. 

A division of 
The Hearst Corporation 
105 Madison Avenue 
New York, New York 10016 

English translation © 1970 by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. 

Published by arrangement with Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. 

Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 7483632 
ISBN: 0-380-01503-X 

All rights reserved, which includes the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever except as provided by the U.S. 
Copyright Law. For information address Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc., 10 East 53rd Street, New York, New York 10022. 

First Avon Bard Printing: May 1971 


Printed in the U.S.A. 

K-R 40 39 38 37 36 35 34 33 



forjomi garria ascot 
and maria luisa elio 





Jort Areadio BoendUi 
m. Cnula Iguarln 

olonel Aurellano Btiendia- 
m. Remcdios Moscote 

-Jos6 Areadio 

Aurcliano Jose 

(by Pilar Ternera) 

17 Aurelianos 

R'emedios the Beauty 


(by Pilar Ternera) 
m. Santa Sofia de la Piedad 

Aurellano Segundo 
m. Fernanda del Carplo 


Jose Areadio Segundo 


Remedios (Mane) 


(by MauHcioBabfionla) 

lose Areadio 

m. Gasti 

ranta Orsula 


(by Aurellano^ 



Chapter 1 

MANY YEARS LATER as he faced the firing squad. Colonel Aureliano Buendfa was to remember that 
distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At that time Macondo was a village of 
twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished 
stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many 
things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point. Every year during the 
month of March a family of ragged gypsies would set up their tents near the village, and with a great 
uproar of pipes and kettledrums they would display new inventions. First they brought the magnet. 
A heavy gypsy with an untamed beard and sparrow hands, who introduced himself as Melquiades, 
put on a bold public demonstration of what he himself called the eighth wonder of the learned al¬ 
chemists of Macedonia. He went from house to house dragging two metal ingots and everybody was 
amazed to see pots, pans, tongs, and braziers tumble down from their places and beams creak from 
the desperation of nails and screws trying to emerge, and even objects that had been lost for a long 
time appeared from where they had been searched for most and went dragging along in turbulent 
confusion behind Melquiades’ magical irons. “Things have a life of their own,” the gypsy proclaimed 
with a harsh accent. “It’s simply a matter of waking up their souls.” Jose Arcadio Buendia, whose 
unbridled imagination always went beyond the genius of nature and even beyond miracles and 
magic, thought that it would be possible to make use of that useless invention to extract gold from 
the bowels of the earth. Melquiades, who was an honest man, warned him: “It won’t work for 
that.” But Jose Arcadio Buendia at that time did not believe in the honesty of gypsies, so he traded 
Iris mule and a pair of goats for the two magnetized ingots. Ursula Iguaran, his wife, who relied on 
those animals to increase their poor domestic holdings, was unable to dissuade him. “Very soon well 
have gold enough and more to pave the floors of the house,” her husband replied. For several 
months he worked hard to demonstrate the truth of his idea. He explored every inch of the region, 
even the riverbed, dragging the two iron ingots along and reciting Melquiades’ incantation aloud. 
The only thing he succeeded in doing was to unearth a suit of fifteenth-century armor which had all 
of its pieces soldered together with rust and inside of which there was the hollow resonance of an 
enormous stone-filled gourd. When Jose Arcadio Buendia and the four men of his expedition 
managed to take the armor apart, they found inside a calcified skeleton with a copper locket 
containing a woman’s hair around its neck. 

In March the gypsies returned. This time they brought a telescope and a magnifying glass the size 
of a dmm, which they exhibited as the latest discovery of the Jews of Amsterdam. They placed a 
gypsy woman at one end of the village and set up the telescope at the entrance to the tent. For the 
price of five reales, people could look into the telescope and see the gypsy woman an arm’s length 
away. “Science has eliminated distance,” Melquiades proclaimed. “In a short time, man will be able 
to see what is happening in any place in the world without leaving his own house.” A burning 
noonday sun brought out a startling demonstration with the gigantic magnifying glass: they put a pile 
of dry hay in the middle of the street and set it on fire by concentrating the sun’s rays. Jose Arcadio 
Buendfa, who had still not been consoled for the failure of big magnets, conceived the idea of using 
that invention as a weapon of war. Again Melquiades tried to dissuade him, but he finally accepted 
the two magnetized ingots and three colonial coins in exchange for the magnifying glass. Ursula 
wept in consternation. That money was from a chest of gold coins that her father had put together 
ova an entire life of privation and that she had buried underneath her bed in hopes of a proper 
occasion to make use of it. Jose Arcadio Buendfa made no at. tempt to console her, completely 


absorbed in his tactical experiments with the abnegation of a scientist and even at the risk of his own 
life. In an attempt to show the effects of the glass on enemy troops, he exposed himself to the 
concentration of the sun’s rays and suffered burns which turned into sores that took a long time to 
heal. Over the protests of his wife, who was alarmed at such a dangerous invention, at one point he 
was ready to set the house on fire. He would spend hours on end in his room, calculating the 
strategic possibilities of his novel weapon until he succeeded in putting together a manual of 
startling instructional clarity and an irresistible power of conviction. He sent it to the government, 
accompanied by numerous descriptions of his experiments and several pages of explanatory 
sketches; by a messenger who crossed the mountains, got lost in measureless swamps, forded stormy 
rivers, and was on the point of perishing under the lash of despair, plague, and wild beasts until he 
found a route that joined the one used by the mules that carried the mail. In spite of the fact that a 
trip to the capital was little less than impossible at that time, Jose Arcadio Buendia promised to 
undertake it as soon as the government ordered him to so that he could put on some practical 
demonstrations of his invention for the military authorities and could train them himself in the 
complicated art of solar war. For several years he waited for an answer. Finally, tired of waiting, he 
bemoaned to Melquiades the failure of Iris project and the gypsy then gave him a convincing proof 
of his honesty: he gave him back the doubloons in exchange for the magnifying glass, and he left 
him in addition some Portuguese maps and several instruments of navigation. In his own 
handwriting he set down a concise synthesis of the studies by Monk Hermann, which he left Jose 
Arcadio so that he would be able to make use of the astrolabe, the compass, and the sextant. Jose 
Arcadio Buendia spent the long months of the rainy season shut up in a small room that he had built 
in the rear of the house so that no one would disturb his experiments. Having completely aban¬ 
doned Iris domestic obligations, he spent entire nights in the courtyard watching the course of the 
stars and he almost contracted sunstroke from trying to establish an exact method to ascertain noon. 
When he became an expert in the use and manipulation of his instmments, he conceived a notion of 
space that allowed him to navigate across unknown seas, to visit uninhabited territories, and to 
establish relations with splendid beings without having to leave his study. That was the period in 
which he acquired the habit of talking to himself, of walking through the house without paying 
attention to anyone, as Ursula and the children broke their backs in the garden, growing banana and 
caladium, cassava and yams, ahuyama roots and eggplants. Suddenly, without warning, his feverish 
activity was intermpted and was replaced by a kind of fascination. He spent several days as if he 
were bewitched, softly repeating to himself a string of fearful conjectures without giving credit to his 
own understanding. Finally, one Tuesday in December, at lunchtime, all at once he released the 
whole weight of Iris torment. The children would remember for the rest of their lives the august 
solemnity with which their father, devastated by his prolonged vigil and by the wrath of Iris 
imagination, revealed his discovery to them: 

“The earth is round, like an orange.” 

Ursula lost her patience. “If you have to go crazy, please go crazy all by yourself!” she shouted. 
“But don’t try to put your gypsy ideas into the heads of the children.” Jose Arcadio Buendia, 
impassive, did not let himself be frightened by the desperation of his wife, who, in a seizure of rage, 
mashed the astrolabe against the floor. He built another one, he gathered the men of the village in 
Iris little room, and he demonstrated to them, with theories that none of them could understand, the 
possibility of returning to where one had set out by consistently sailing east. The whole village was 
convinced that Jose Arcadio Buendia had lost his reason, when Melquiades returned to set things 
straight. He gave public praise to the intelligence of a man who from pure astronomical speculation 
had evolved a theory that had already been proved in practice, although unknown in Macondo until 
then, and as a proof of his admiration he made him a gift that was to have a profound influence on 
the future of the village: the laboratory of an alchemist. 



By then Melquiades had aged with surprising rapidity. On his first trips he seemed to be the same 
age as Jose Arcadio Buendia. But while the latter had preserved his extraordinary strength, which 
permitted him to pull down a horse by grabbing its ears, the gypsy seemed to have been worn dowse 
by some tenacious illness. It was, in reality, the result of multiple and rare diseases contracted on his 
innumerable trips around the world. According to what he himself said as he spoke to Jose Arcadio 
Buendia while helping him set up the laboratory, death followed him everywhere, sniffing at the 
cuffs of his pants, but never deciding to give him the final clutch of its claws. He was a fugitive from 
all the plagues and catastrophes that had ever lashed mankind. He had survived pellagra in Persia, 
scurvy in the Malayan archipelago, leprosy in Alexandria, beriberi in Japan, bubonic plague in 
Madagascar, an earthquake in Sicily, and a disastrous shipwreck in the Strait of Magellan. That 
prodigious creature, said to possess the keys of Nostradamus, was a gloomy man, enveloped in a sad 
aura, with an Asiatic look that seemed to know what there was on the other side of tilings. He wore 
a large black hat that looked like a raven with widespread wings, and a velvet vest across which the 
patina of the centuries had skated. But in spite of his immense wisdom and his mysterious breadth, 
he had a human burden, an earthly condition that kept him involved in the small problems of daily 
life. He would complain of the ailments of old age, he suffered from the most insignificant 
economic difficulties, and he had stopped laughing a long time back because scurvy had made his 
teeth drop out. On that suffocating noontime when the gypsy revealed his secrets, Jose Arcadio 
Buendia had the certainty that it was the beginning of a great friendship. The children were startled 
by his fantastic stories. Aureliano, who could not have been more than five at the time, would 
remember him for the rest of his life as he saw him that afternoon, sitting against the metallic and 
quivering light from the window, lighting up with his deep organ voice the darkest reaches of the 
imagination, while down over his temples there flowed the grease that was being melted by the heat. 
Jose Arcadio, his older brother, would pass on that wonderful image as a hereditary memory to all of 
Iris descendants. Ursula on the other hand, held a bad memory of that visit, for she had entered the 
room just as Melquiades had carelessly broken a flask of bichloride of mercury. 

“It’s the smell of the devil,” she said. 

“Not at all,” Melquiades corrected her. “It has been proven that the devil has sulphuric properties 
and this is just a little corrosive sublimate.” 

Always didactic, he went into a learned exposition of the diabolical properties of cinnabar, but 
Ursula paid no attention to him, although she took the children off to pray. That biting odor would 
stay forever in her mind linked to the memory of Melquiades. 

The mdimentary laboratory—in addition to a profusion of pots, funnels, retorts, filters, and 
sieves—was made up of a primitive water pipe, a glass beaker with a long, thin neck, a reproduction 
of the philosopher’s egg, and a still the gypsies themselves had built in accordance with modern 
descriptions of the three-armed alembic of Mary the Jew. Along with those items, Melquiades left 
samples of the seven metals that corresponded to the seven planets, the formulas of Moses and 
Zosimus for doubling the quantity of gold, and a set of notes and sketches concerning the processes 
of the Great Teaching that would permit those who could interpret them to undertake the 
manufacture of the philosopher’s stone. Seduced by the simplicity of the formulas to double the 
quantity of gold, Jose Arcadio Buendia paid court to Ursula for several weeks so that she would let 
him dig up her colonial coins and increase them by as many times as it was possible to subdivide 
mercury. Ursula gave in, as always, to her husband’s unyielding obstinacy. Then Jose Arcadio 
Buendia threw three doubloons into a pan and fused them with copper filings, orpiment, brimstone, 
and lead. He put it all to boil in a pot of castor oil until he got a thick and pestilential syrup which 
was more like common caramel than valuable gold. In risky and desperate processes of distillation, 
melted with the seven planetary metals, mixed with hermetic mercury and vitriol of Cypms, and put 



back to cook in hog fat for lack of any radish oil, Ursula’s precious inheritance was reduced to a 
large piece of burnt hog cracklings that was firmly stuck to the bottom of the pot. 

When the gypsies came back, Ursula had turned the whole population of the village against them. 
But curiosity was greater than fear, for that time the gypsies went about the town making a 
deafening noise with all manner of musical instruments while a hawker announced the exhibition of 
the most fabulous discovery of the Naciancenes. So that everyone went to the tent and by paying 
one cent they saw a youthful Melquiades, recovered, unwrinkled, with a new and flashing set of 
teeth. Those who remembered his gums that had been destroyed by scurvy, his flaccid cheeks, and 
his withered lips trembled with fear at the final proof of the gypsy’s supernatural power. The fear 
turned into panic when Melquiades took out his teeth, intact, encased in their gums, and showed 
them to the audience for an instant—a fleeting instant in which he went back to being the same 
decrepit man of years past—and put them back again and smiled once more with the full control of 
his restored youth. Even Jose Arcadio Buendia himself considered that Melquiades’ knowledge had 
reached unbearable extremes, but he felt a healthy excitement when the gypsy explained to him 
atone the workings of his false teeth. It seemed so simple and so prodigious at the same time that 
overnight he lost all interest in his experiments in alchemy. He underwent a new crisis of bad 
humor. He did not go back to eating regularly, and he would spend the day walking through the 
house. “Incredible things are happening in the world,” he said to Ursula. “Right there across the 
river there are all kinds of magical instmments while we keep on living like donkeys.” Those who 
had known him since the foundation of Macondo were startled at how much he had changed under 
Melquiades’ influence. 

At first Jose Arcadio Buendia had been a kind of youthful patriarch who would give instructions 
for planting and advice for the raising of children and animals, and who collaborated with everyone, 
even in the physical work, for the welfare of the community. Since his house from the very first had 
been the best in the village, the others had been built in its image and likeness. It had a small, well- 
lighted living roost, a dining room in the shape of a terrace with gaily colored flowers, two 
bedrooms, a courtyard with a gigantic chestnut tree, a well kept garden, and a corral where goats, 
pigs, and hens lived in peaceful communion. The only animals that were prohibited, not just in his 
house but in the entire settlement, were fighting cocks. 

Ursula’s capacity for work was the same as that of her husband. Active, small, severe, that woman 
of unbreakable nerves who at no moment in her life had been heard to sing seemed to be 
everywhere, from dawn until quite late at night, always pursued by the soft whispering of her stiff, 
starched petticoats. Thanks to her the floors of tamped earth, the unwhitewashed mud walls, the 
rustic, wooden furniture they had built themselves were always dean, and the old chests where they 
kept their clothes exhaled the warm smell of basil. 

Jose Arcadio Buendia, who was the most enterprising man ever to be seen in the village, had set 
up the placement of the houses in such a way that from all of them one could reach the river and 
draw water with the same effort, and he had lined up the streets with such good sense that no house 
got more sun than another during the hot time of day. Within a few years Macondo was a village 
that was more orderly and hard working than any known until then by its three hundred inhabitants. 
It was a truly happy village where no one was over thirty years of age and where no one had died. 

Since the time of its founding, Jose Arcadio Buendia had built traps and cages. In a short time he 
filled not only his own house but all of those in the village with troupials, canaries, bee eaters, and 
redbreasts. The concert of so many different birds became so disturbing that Ursula would plug her 
ears with beeswax so as not to lose her sense of reality. The first time that Melquiades’ tribe arrived, 
selling glass balls for headaches, everyone was surprised that they had been able to find that village 
lost in the drowsiness of the swamp, and the gypsies confessed that they had found their way by the 
song of the birds. 



That spirit of social initiative disappeared in a short time, pulled away by the fever of the 
magnets, the astronomical calculations, the dreams of transmutation, and the urge to discover the 
wonders of the world. From a clean and active man, Jose Arcadio Buendia changed into a man lazy 
in appearance, careless in his dress, with a wild beard that Ursula managed to trim with great effort 
and a kitchen knife. There were many who considered him the victim of some strange spell. But 
even those most convinced of his madness left work and family to follow him when he brought out 
his tools to clear the land and asked the assembled group to open a way that would put Macondo in 
contact with the great inventions. 

Jose Arcadio Buendia was completely ignorant of the geography of the region. He knew that to 
the east there lay an impenetrable mountain chain and that on the other side of the mountains there 
was the ardent city of Riohacha, where in times past—according to what he had been told by the 
first Aureliano Buendia, his grandfather—Sir Francis Drake had gone crocodile hunting with 
cannons and that he repaired hem and stuffed them with straw to bring to Queen Elizabeth. In his 
youth, Jose Arcadio Buendia and his men, with wives and children, animals and all kinds of domestic 
implements, had crossed the mountains in search of an outlet to the sea, and after twenty-six 
months they gave up the expedition and founded Macondo, so they would not have to go back. It 
was, therefore, a route that did not interest him, for it could lead only to the past. To the south lay 
the swamps, covered with an eternal vegetable scum and the whole vast universe of the great 
swamp, which, according to what the gypsies said, had no limits. The great swamp in the west 
mingled with a boundless extension of water where there were soft-skinned cetaceans that had the 
head and torso of a woman, causing the ruination of sailors with the charm of their extraordinary 
breasts. The gypsies sailed along that route for six months before they reached the strip of land over 
which the mules that carried the mail passed. According to Jose Arcadio Buendia’s calculations, the 
only possibility of contact with civilization lay along the northern route. So he handed out clearing 
tools and hunting weapons to the same men who had been with him during the founding of 
Macondo. He threw his directional instruments and his maps into a knapsack, and he undertook the 
reckless adventure. 

During the first days they did not come across any appreciable obstacle. They went down along 
the stony bank of the river to the place where years before they had found the soldier’s armor, and 
from there they went into the woods along a path between wild orange trees. At the end of the first 
week they killed and roasted a deer, but they agreed to eat only half of it and salt the rest for the days 
that lay ahead. With that precaution they tried to postpone the necessity of having to eat macaws, 
whose blue flesh had a harsh and musky taste. Then, for more than ten days, they did not see the 
sun again. The ground became soft and damp, like volcanic ash, and the vegetation was thicker and 
thicker, and the cries of the birds and the uproar of the monkeys became more and more remote, 
and the world became eternally sad. The men on the expedition felt overwhelmed by their most 
ancient memories in that paradise of dampness and silence, going back to before original sin, as their 
boots sank into pools of steaming oil and their machetes destroyed bloody lilies and golden salaman¬ 
ders. For a week, almost without speaking, they went ahead like sleepwalkers through a universe of 
grief, lighted only by the tenuous reflection of luminous insects, and their lungs were overwhelmed 
by a suffocating smell of blood. They could not return because the strip that they were opening as 
they went along would soon close up with a new vegetation that, almost seemed to grow before 
their eyes. “It’s all right,” Jose Arcadio Buendia would say. “The main tiling is not to lose our 
bearings.” Always following his compass, he kept on guiding his men toward the invisible north so 
that they would be able to get out of that enchanted region. It was a thick night, starless, but the 
darkness was becoming impregnated with a fresh and clear air. Exhausted by the long crossing, they 
hung up their hammocks and slept deeply for the first time in two weeks. When they woke up, with 
the sun already high in the sky, they were speechless with fascination. Before them, surrounded by 



ferns and palm trees, white and powdery in the silent morning light, was an enormous Spanish 
galleon. Tilted slightly to the starboard, it had hanging from its intact masts the dirty rags of its sails 
in the midst of its rigging, which was adorned with orchids. The hull, covered with an armor of 
petrified barnacles and soft moss, was firmly fastened into a surface of stones. The whole structure 
seemed to occupy its own space, one of solitude and oblivion, protected from the vices of time and 
the habits of the birds. Inside, where the expeditionaries explored with careful intent, there was 
nothing but a thick forest of flowers. 

The discovery of the galleon, an indication of the proximity of the sea, broke Jose Arcadio 
Buendia’s drive. He considered it a trick of his whimsical fate to have searched for the sea without 
finding it, at the cost of countless sacrifices and suffering, and to have found it all of a sudden 
without looking for it, as if it lay across his path like an insurmountable object. Many years later 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia crossed the region again, when it was already a regular mail route, and 
the only part of the ship he found was its burned-out frame in the midst of a field of poppies. Only 
then, convinced that the story had not been some product of his father’s imagination, did he wonder 
how the galleon had been able to get inland to that spot. But Jose Arcadio Buendia did not concern 
himself with that when he found the sea after another four days’ journey from the galleon. His 
dreams ended as he faced that ashen, foamy, dirty sea, which had not merited the risks and sacrifices 
of the adventure. 

“God damn it!” he shouted. “Macondo is surrounded by water on all sides.” 

The idea of a peninsular Macondo prevailed for a long time, inspired by the arbitrary map that 
Jose Arcadio Buendia sketched on his return from the expedition. He drew it in rage, evilly, 
exaggerating the difficulties of communication, as if to punish himself for the absolute lack of sense 
with which he had chosen the place. “We’ll never get anywhere,” he lamented to Ursula. “We’re 
going to rot our lives away here without receiving the benefits of science.” That certainty, mulled 
over for several months in the small room he used as his laboratory, brought him to the conception 
of the plan to move Maeondo to a better place. But that time Ursula had anticipated his feverish 
designs. With the secret and implacable labor of a small ant she predisposed the women of the 
village against the flightiness of their husbands, who were already preparing for the move. Jose 
Arcadio Buendia did not know at what moment or because of what adverse forces his plan had 
become enveloped in a web of pretexts, disappointments, and evasions until it turned into nothing 
but an illusion. Ursula watched him with innocent attention and even felt some pity for him on the 
morning when she found him in the back room muttering about his plans for moving as he placed 
his laboratory pieces in their original boxes. She let him finish. She let him nail up the boxes and put 
his initials on them with an inked brush, without reproaching him, but knowing now that he knew 
(because she had heard him say so in his soft monologues) that the men of the village would not 
back him up in his undertaking. Only when he began to take down the door of the room did Ursula 
dare ask him what he was doing, and he answered with a certain bitterness. “Since no one wants to 
leave, we’ll leave all by ourselves.” Ursula did not become upset. 

“We will not leave,” she said. “We will stay here, because we have had a son here.” 

“We have still not had a death,” he said. “A person does not belong to a place until there is 
someone dead under the ground.” 

Ursula replied with a soft firmness: 

“If I have to die for the rest of you to stay here, I will die.” 

Jose Arcadio Buendia had not thought that his wife’s will was so firm. He tried to seduce her 
with the charm of his fantasy, with the promise of a prodigious world where all one had to do was 
sprinkle some magic liquid on the ground and the plants would bear fmit whenever a man wished, 
and where all manner of instruments against pain were sold at bargain prices. But Ursula was 
insensible to his clairvoyance. 



“Instead of going around thinking about your crazy inventions, you should be worrying about 
your sons,” she replied. “Look at the state they’re in, running wild just like donkeys.” 

Jose Arcadio Buendia took his wife’s words literally. He looked out the window and saw the 
barefoot children in the sunny garden and he had the impression that only at that instant had they 
begun to exist, conceived by Ursula’s spell, Something occurred inside of him then, something 
mysterious and definitive that uprooted him from his own time and carried him adrift through an 
unexplored region of his memory. While Ursula continued sweeping the house, which was safe now 
from being abandoned for the rest of her life, he stood there with an absorbed look, contemplating 
the children until his eyes became moist and he dried them with the back of Inis hand, exhaling a 
deep sigh of resignation. 

“All right,” he said. “Tell them to come help me take the things out of the boxes.” 

Jose Arcadio, the older of the children, was fourteen. He had a square head, thick hair, and his 
father’s character. Although he had the same impulse for growth and physical strength, it was early 
evident that he lacked imagination. He had been conceived and born during the difficult crossing of 
the mountains, before the founding of Macondo, and his parents gave thanks to heaven when they 
saw he had no animal features. Aureliano, the first human being to be born in Macondo, would be 
six years old in March. He was silent and withdrawn. He had wept in his mother’s womb and had 
been born with his eyes open. As they were cutting the umbilical cord, he moved his head from side 
to side, taking in the tilings in the room and examining the faces of the people with a fearless 
curiosity. Then, indifferent to those who came close to look at him, he kept his attention 
concentrated on the palm roof, which looked as if it were about to collapse under the tremendous 
pressure of the rain. Ursula did not remember the intensity of that look again until one day when 
little Aureliano, at the age of three, went into the kitchen at the moment she was taking a pot of 
boiling soup from the stove and putting it on the table. The child. Perplexed, said from the doorway, 
“It’s going to spill.” The pot was firmly placed in the center of the table, but just as soon as the child 
made his announcement, it began an unmistakable movement toward the edge, as if impelled by 
some inner dynamism, and it fell and broke on the floor. Ursula, alarmed, told her husband about 
the episode, but he interpreted it as a natural phenomenon. That was the way he always was alien to 
the existence of his sons, partly because he considered childhood as a period of mental insufficiency, 
and partly because he was always too absorbed in his fantastic speculations. 

But since the afternoon when he called the children in to help him unpack the things in the 
laboratory, he gave them his best hours. In the small separate room, where the walls were gradually 
being covered by strange maps and fabulous drawings, he taught them to read and write and do 
sums, and he spoke to them about the wonders of the world, not only where his learning had 
extended, but forcing the limits of his imagination to extremes. It was in that way that the boys 
ended up learning that in the southern extremes of Africa there were men so intelligent and peaceful 
that their only pastime was to sit and think, and that it was possible to cross the Aegean Sea on foot 
by jumping from island to island all the way to the port of Salonika. Those hallucinating sessions 
remained printed on the memories of the boys in such a way that many years later, a second before 
the regular army officer gave the firing squad the command to fire. Colonel Aureliano Buendia saw 
once more that warm March afternoon on which his father had intermpted the lesson in physics and 
stood fascinated, with his hand in the air and his eyes motionless, listening to the distant pipes, 
drums, and jingles of the gypsies, who were coming to the village once more, announcing the latest 
and most startling discovery of the sages of Memphis. 

They were new gypsies, young men and women who knew only their own language, handsome 
specimens with oily skins and intelligent hands, whose dances and music sowed a panic of 
uproarious joy through the streets, with parrots painted all colors reciting Italian arias, and a hen 
who laid a hundred golden eggs to the sound of a tambourine, and a trained monkey who read 



minds, and the multi-use machine that could be used at the same time to sew on buttons and reduce 
fevers, and the apparatus to make a person forget his bad memories, and a poultice to lose time, and 
a thousand more inventions so ingenious and unusual that Jose Arcadio Buendia must have wanted 
to invent a memory machine so that he could remember them all. In an instant they transformed the 
village. The inhabitants of Macondo found themselves lost is their own streets, confused by the 
crowded fair. 

Holding a child by each hand so as not to lose them in the tumult, bumping into acrobats with 
gold-capped teeth and jugglers with six arms, suffocated by the mingled breath of manure and 
sandals that the crowd exhaled, Jose Arcadio Buendia went about everywhere like a madman, 
looking for Melquiades so that he could reveal to him the infinite secrets of that fabulous nightmare. 
He asked several gypsies, who did not understand his language. Finally he reached the place where 
Melquiades used to set up his tent and he found a taciturn Armenian who in Spanish was hawking a 
syrup to make oneself invisible. He had drunk down a glass of the amber substance in one gulp as 
Jose Arcadio Buendia elbowed his way through the absorbed group that was witnessing the 
spectacle, and was able to ask his question. The gypsy wrapped him in the frightful climate of his 
look before he turned into a puddle of pestilential and smoking pitch over which the echo of his 
reply still floated: “Melquiades is dead.” Upset by the news, Jose Arcadio Buendia stood motionless, 
trying to rise above his affliction, until the group dispersed, called away by other artifices, and the 
puddle of the taciturn Armenian evaporated completely. Other gypsies confirmed later on that 
Melquiades had in fact succumbed to the fever on the beach at Singapore and that his body had 
been thrown into the deepest part of the Java Sea. The children had no interest in the news. They 
insisted that their father take them to see the overwhelming novelty of the sages of Memphis that 
was being advertised at the entrance of a tent that, according to what was said, had belonged to King 
Solomon. They insisted so much that Jose Arcadio Buendia paid the thirty reales and led them into 
the center of the tent, where there was a giant with a hairy torso and a shaved head, with a copper 
ring in his nose and a heavy iron chain on his ankle, watching over a pirate chest. When it was 
opened by the giant, the chest gave off a glacial exhalation. Inside there was only an enormous, 
transparent block with infinite internal needles in which the light of the sunset was broken up into 
colored stars. Disconcerted, knowing that the children were waiting for an immediate explanation, 
Jose Arcadio Buendia ventured a murmur: 

“It’s the largest diamond in the world.” 

“No,” the gypsy countered. “It’s ice.” 

Jose Arcadio Buendia, without understanding, stretched out his hand toward the cake, but the 
giant moved it away. “Five reales more to touch it,” he said. Jose Arcadio Buendia paid them and 
put his hand on the ice and held it there for several minutes as his heart filled with fear and 
jubilation at the contact with mystery. Without knowing what to say, he paid ten reales more so that 
his sons could have that prodigious experience. Little Jose Arcadio refused to touch it. Aureliano, on 
the other hand, took a step forward and put his hand on it, withdrawing it immediately. “It’s 
boiling,” he exclaimed, startled. But his father paid no attention to him. Intoxicated by the evidence 
of the miracle, he forgot at that moment about the frustration of his delirious undertakings and 
Melquiades’ body, abandoned to the appetite of the squids. He paid another five reales and with his 
hand on the cake, as if giving testimony on the holy scriptures, he exclaimed: 

“This is the great invention of our time.” 



Chapter 2 

WHEN THE PIRATE Sir Francis Drake attacked Riohacha in the sixteenth century, Ursula Iguaran’s 
great-great-grandmother became so frightened with the ringing of alarm bells and the firing of 
cannons that she lost control of her nerves and sat down on a lighted stove. The burns changed her 
into a useless wife for the rest of her days. She could only sit on one side, cushioned by pillows, and 
something strange must have happened to her way of walking, for she never walked again in public. 
She gave up all kinds of social activity, obsessed with the notion that her body gave off a singed 
odor. Dawn would find her in the courtyard, for she did not dare fall asleep lest she dream of the 
English and their ferocious attack dogs as they came through the windows of her bedroom to 
submit her to shameful tortures with their red-hot irons. Her husband, an Aragonese merchant by 
whom she had two children, spent half the value of his store on medicines and pastimes in an 
attempt to alleviate her terror. Finally he sold the business and took the family to live far from the 
sea in a settlement of peaceful Indians located in the foothills, where he built his wife a bedroom 
without windows so that the pirates of her dream would have no way to get in. 

In that hidden village there was a native-born tobacco planter who had lived there for some time, 
Don Jose Arcadio Buendfa, with whom Ursula’s great-great-grandfather established a partnership 
that was so lucrative that within a few years they made a fortune. Several centuries later the great- 
great-grandson of the native-born planter married the great-great-granddaughter of the Aragonese. 
Therefore, every time that Ursula became exercised over her husband’s mad ideas, she would leap 
back over three hundred years of fate and curse the day that Sir Francis Drake had attacked 
Riohacha. It was simply a way. of giving herself some relief, because actually they were joined till 
death by a bond that was more solid that love: a common prick of conscience. They were cousins. 
They had grown up together in the old village that both of their ancestors, with their work and their 
good habits, had transformed into one of the finest towns in the province. Although their marriage 
was predicted from the time they had come into the world, when they expressed their desire to be 
married their own relatives tried to stop it. They were afraid that those two healthy products of two 
races that had interbred over the centuries would suffer the shame of breeding iguanas. There had 
already been a horrible precedent. An aunt of Ursula’s, married to an uncle of Jose Arcadio Buendfa, 
had a son who went through life wearing loose, baggy trousers and who bled to death after having 
lived forty-two years in the purest state of virginity, for he had been born and had grown up with a 
cartilaginous tail in the shape of a corkscrew and with a small tuft of hair on the tip. A pig’s tail that 
was never allowed to be seen by any woman and that cost him his life when a butcher friend did him 
the favor of chopping it off with his cleaver. Jose Arcadio Buendfa, with the whimsy of his nineteen 
years, resolved the problem with a single phrase: “I don’t care if I have piglets as long as they can 
talk.” So they were married amidst a festival of fireworks and a brass band that went on for three 
days. They would have been happy from then on if Ursula’s mother had not terrified her with all 
manner of sinister predictions about their offspring, even to the extreme of advising her to refuse to 
consummate the marriage. Fearing that her stout and willful husband would rape her while she slept, 
Ursula, before going to bed, would put on a rudimentary kind of drawers that her mother had made 
out of sailcloth and had reinforced with a system of crisscrossed leather straps and that was closed in 
the front by a thick iron buckle. That was how they lived for several months. During the day he 
would take care of his fighting cocks and she would do frame embroidery with her mother. At night 
they would wrestle for several hours in an anguished violence that seemed to be a substitute for the 
act of love, until popular intuition got a whiff of something irregular and the mmor spread that 



Ursula was still a virgin a year after her marriage because her husband was impotent. Jose Arcadio 
Buendia was the last one to hear the mmor. 

“Look at what people are going around saying, Ursula,” he told his wife very calmly. 

“Let them talk,” she said. “We know that it’s not true.” 

So the situation went on the same way for another six months until that tragic Sunday when Jose 
Arcadio Buendia won a cockfight from Prudencio Aguilar. Furious, aroused by the blood of his bird, 
the loser backed away from Jose Arcadio Buendia so that everyone in the cockpit could hear what 
he was going to tell him. 

“Congratulations!” he shouted. “Maybe that rooster of yours can do your wife a favor.” 

Jose Arcadio Buendia serenely picked up his rooster. “I’ll be right back,” he told everyone. And 
then to Prudencio Aguilar: 

“You go home and get a weapon, because I’m going to kill you.” 

Ten minutes later he returned with the notched spear that had belonged to his grandfather. At 
the door to the cockpit, where half the town had gathered, Prudencio Aguilar was waiting for him. 
There was no time to defend himself. Jose Arcadio Buendia’s spear, thrown with the strength of a 
bull and with the same good aim with which the first Aureliano Buendia had exterminated the 
jaguars in the region, pierced his throat. That night, as they held a wake over the corpse in the 
cockpit, Jose Arcadio Buendia went into the bedroom as his wife was putting on her chastity pants. 
Pointing the spear at her he ordered: “Take them off.” Ursula had no doubt about her husband’s 
decision. “You’ll be responsible for what happens,” she murmured. Jose Arcadio Buendia stuck the 
spear into the dirt floor. 

“If you bear iguanas, we’ll raise iguanas,” he said. “But there’ll be no more killings in this town 
because of you.” 

It was a fine June night, cool and with a moon, and they were awake and frolicking in bed until 
dawn, indifferent to the breeze that passed through the bedroom, loaded with the weeping of 
Pmdencio Aguilar’s kin. 

The matter was put down as a duel of honor, but both of them were left with a twinge in their 
conscience. One night, when she could not sleep, Ursula went out into the courtyard to get some 
water and she saw Prudencio Aguilar by the water jar. He was livid, a sad expression on his face, 
trying to cover the hole in his throat with a plug made of esparto grass. It did not bring on fear in 
her, but pity. She went back to the room and told her husband what she had seen, but he did not 
think much of it. “This just means that we can’t stand the weight of our conscience.” Two nights 
later Ursula saw Prudencio Aguilar again, in the bathroom, using the esparto plug to wash the 
clotted blood from his throat. On another night she saw him strolling in the rain. Jose Arcadio 
Buendia, annoyed by his wife’s hallucinations, went out into the courtyard armed with the spear. 
There was the dead man with his sad expression. 

“You go to hell,” Jose Arcadio Buendia shouted at him. “Just as many times as you come back, 
I’ll kill you again.” 

Pmdencio Aguilar did not go away, nor did Jose Arcadio Buendia dare throw the spear. He never 
slept well after that. He was tormented by the immense desolation with which the dead man had 
looked at him through the rain, his deep nostalgia as he yearned for living people, the anxiety with 
which he searched through the house looking for some water with which to soak his esparto plug. 
“He must be suffering a great deal,” he said to Ursula. “You can see that he’s so very lonely.” She 
was so moved that the next time she saw the dead man uncovering the pots on the stove she 
understood what he was looking for, and from then on she placed water jugs all about the house. 
One night when he found him washing his wound in his own room, Jose Anedio Buendia could no 
longer resist. 



“It’s all right, Prudencio,” he told him. “We’re going to leave this town, just as far away as we 
can go, and we’ll never come back. Go in peace now.” 

That was how they undertook the crossing of the mountains. Several friends of Jose Arcadio 
Buendia, young men like him, excited, by the adventure, dismantled their houses and packed up, 
along with their wives and children, to head toward the land that no one had promised them. Before 
he left, Jose Arcadio Buendia buried the spear in the courtyard and, one after the other, he cut the 
throats of his magnificent fighting cocks, trusting that in that way he could give some measure of 
peace to Pmdencio Aguilar. All that Ursula took along were a trunk with her bridal clothes, a few 
household utensils, and the small chest with the gold pieces that she had inherited from her father. 
They did not lay out any definite itinerary. They simply tried to go in a direction opposite to the road 
to Riohacha so that they would not leave any trace or meet any people they knew. It was an absurd 
journey. After fourteen months, her stomach corrupted by monkey meat and snake stew, Ursula 
gave birth to a son who had all of his features human. She had traveled half of the trip in a 
hammock that two men carried on their shoulders, because swelling had disfigured her legs and her 
varicose veins had puffed up like bubbles. Although it was pitiful to see them with their sunken 
stomachs and languid eyes, the children survived the journey better than their parents, and most of 
the time it was fun for them. One morning, after almost two years of crossing, they became the first 
mortals to see the western slopes of the mountain range. From the cloudy summit they saw the 
immense aquatic expanse of the great swamp as it spread out toward the other side of the world. But 
they never found the sea. One night, after several months of lost wandering through the swamps, far 
away now from the last Indians they had met on their way, they camped on the banks of a stony 
river whose waters were like a torrent of frozen glass. Years later, during the second civil war, 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia tried to follow that same route in order to take Riohacha by surprise and 
after six days of traveling he understood that it was madness. Nevertheless, the night on which they 
camped beside the river, his father’s host had the look of shipwrecked people with no escape, but 
their number had grown during the crossing and they were all prepared (and they succeeded) to die 
of old age. Jose Arcadio Buendia dreamed that night that right there a noisy city with houses having 
mirror wails rose up. He asked what city it was and they answered him with a name that he had 
never heard, that had no meaning at all, but that had a supernatural echo in his dream: Macondo. On 
the following day he convinced his men that they would never find the sea. He ordered them to cut 
down the trees to make a clearing beside the river, at the coolest spot on the bank, and there they 
founded the village. 

Jose Arcadio Buendia did not succeed in deciphering the dream of houses with mirror walls until 
the day he discovered ice. Then he thought he understood its deep meaning. He thought that in the 
near future they would be able to manufacture blocks of ice on a large scale from such a common 
material as water and with them build the new houses of the village. Macondo would no longer be a 
burning place, where the hinges and door knockers twisted with the heat, but would be changed into 
a wintry city. If he did not persevere in his attempts to build an ice factory, it was because at that 
time he was absolutely enthusiastic over the education of his sons, especially that of Aureliano, who 
from the first had revealed a strange intuition for alchemy. The laboratory had been dusted off. 
Reviewing Melquiades’ notes, serene now, without the exaltation of novelty, in prolonged and 
patient sessions they tried to separate Ursula’s gold from the debris that was stuck to the bottom of 
the pot. Young Jose Arcadio scarcely took part in the process. While his father was involved body 
and soul with his water pipe, the willful first-born, who had always been too big for his age, had 
become a monumental adolescent. His voice had changed. An incipient fuzz appeared on his upper 
lip. One night, as Ursula went into the room where he was undressing to go to bed, she felt a 
mingled sense of shame and pity: he was the first man that she had seen naked after her husband. 



and he was so well-equipped for life that he seemed abnormal. Ursula, pregnant for the third time, 
relived her newlywed terror. 

Around that time a merry, foul-mouthed, provocative woman came to the house to help with the 
chorea, and she knew how to read the future in cards. Ursula spoke to her about her son. She 
thought that his disproportionate size was something as unnatural as her cousin’s tail of a pig. 
The woman let out an expansive laugh that resounded through the house like a spray of broken 
glass. “Just the opposite,” she said. “He’ll be very lucky.” In order to confirm her prediction she 
brought her cards to the house a few days later and locked herself up with Jose Arcadio in a granary 
off the kitchen. She calmly placed her cards on an old carpenter’s bench, saying anything that came 
into her head, while the boy waited beside her, more bored than intrigued. Suddenly she reached out 
her hand and touched him. “Lordy!” she said, sincerely startled, and that was all she could say. Jose 
Arcadio felt his bones filling up with foam, a languid fear, and a terrible desire to weep. The woman 
made no insinuations. But Jose Arcadio kept looking for her all night long, for the smell of smoke 
that she had under her armpits and that had got caught under his skin. He wanted to be with her all 
the time, he wanted her to be his mother, for them never to leave the granary, and for her to say 
“Lordy!” to him. One day he could not stand it any more and. he went looking for her at her house: 
He made a formal visit, sitting uncomprehendingly in the living room without saying a word. At 
that moment he had no desire for her. He found her different, entirely foreign to the image that her 
smell brought on, as if she were someone else. He drank his coffee and left the house in depression. 
That night, during the frightful time of lying awake, he desired her again with a brutal anxiety, but he 
did not want her that time as she had been in the granary but as she had been that afternoon. 

Days later the woman suddenly called him to her house, where she was alone with her mother, 
and she had him come into the bedroom with the pretext of showing him a deck of cards. Then 
she touched him with such freedom that he suffered a delusion after the initial shudder, and he felt 
more fear than pleasure. She asked him to come and see her that night. He agreed, in order to get 
away, knowing that he was incapable of going. But that night, in his burning bed, he understood that 
he had to go we her, even if he were not capable. He got dressed by feel, listening in the dark to his 
brother’s calm breathing, the dry cough of his father in the next room, the asthma of the hens in the 
courtyard, the buzz of the mosquitoes, the beating of his heart, and the inordinate bustle of a world 
that he had not noticed until then, and he went out into the sleeping street. With all his heart he 
wanted the door to be barred and not just closed as she had promised him. But it was open. He 
pushed it with the tips of his fingers and the hinges yielded with a mournful and articulate moan that 
left a frozen echo inside of him. From the moment he entered, sideways and trying not to make a 
noise, he caught the smell. He was still in the hallway, where the woman’s three brothers had their 
hammocks in positions that he could not see and that he could not determine in the darkness as he 
felt his way along the hall to push open the bedroom door and get his bearings there so as not to 
mistake the bed. He found it. He bumped against the ropes of the hammocks, which were lower 
than he had suspected, and a man who had been snoring until then turned in his sleep and said in a 
kind of delusion, “It was Wednesday.” When he pushed open the bedroom door, he could not 
prevent it from scraping against the uneven floor. Suddenly, in the absolute darkness, he understood 
with a hopeless nostalgia that he was completely disoriented. Sleeping in the narrow room were the 
mother, another daughter with her husband and two children, and the woman, who may not have 
been there. He could have guided himself by the smell if the smell had not been all over the house, 
so devious and at the same time so definite, as it had always been on his skin. He did not move for a 
long time, wondering in fright how he had ever got to that abyss of abandonment, when a hand with 
all its fingers extended and feeling about in the darkness touched his face. He was not surprised, for 
without knowing, he had been expecting it. Then he gave himself over to that hand, and in a terrible 
state of exhaustion he let himself be led to a shapeless place where his clothes were taken off and he 



was heaved about like a sack of potatoes and thrown from one side to the other in a bottomless 
darkness in which Inis arms were useless, where it no longer smelled of woman but of ammonia, and 
where he tried to remember her face and found before him the face of Ursula, confusedly aware that 
he was doing something that for a very long time he had wanted to do but that he had imagined 
could really never be done, not knowing what he was doing because he did not know where his feet 
were or where Inis head was, or whose feet or whose head, and feeling that he could no longer resist 
the glacial rumbling of his kidneys and the air of his intestines, and fear, and the bewildered anxiety 
to flee and at the same time stay forever in that exasperated silence and that fearful solitude. 

Her name was Pilar Ternera. She had been part of the exodus that ended with the founding of 
Macondo, dragged along by her family in order to separate her from the man who had raped her at 
fourteen and had continued to love her until she was twenty-two, but who never made up his mind 
to make the situation public because he was a man apart. He promised to follow her to the ends of 
the earth, but only later on, when he put his affairs in order, and she had become tired of waiting for 
him, always identifying him with the tall and short, blond and bmnet men that her cards promised 
from land and sea within three days, three months, or three years. With her waiting she had lost the 
strength of her thighs, the firmness of her breasts, her habit of tenderness, but she kept the madness 
of her heart intact. Maddened by that prodigious plaything, Jose Arcadio followed her path every 
night through the labyrinth of the room. On a certain occasion he found the door barred, and he 
knocked several times, knowing that if he had the boldness to knock the first time he would have 
had to knock until the last, and after an interminable wait she opened the door for him. During the 
day, lying down to dream, he would secretly enjoy the memories of the night before. But when she 
came into the house, merry, indifferent, chatty, he did not have to make any effort to hide his 
tension, because that woman, whose explosive laugh frightened off the doves, had nothing to do 
with the invisible power that taught him how to breathe from within and control his heartbeats, and 
that had permitted him to understand why man are afraid of death. He was so wrapped up in 
himself that he did not even understand the joy of everyone when his father and his brother aroused 
the household with the news that they had succeeded in penetrating the metallic debris and had 
separated Ursula’s gold. 

They had succeeded, as a matter of fact, after putting in complicated and persevering days at it. 
Ursula was happy, and she even gave thanks to God for the invention of alchemy, while the people 
of the village cmshed into the laboratory, and they served them guava jelly on crackers to celebrate 
the wonder, and Jose Arcadio Buendia let them see the cmcible with the recovered gold, as if he had 
just invented it. Showing it all around, he ended up in front of his older son, who during the past 
few days had barely put in an appearance in the laboratory. He put the dry and yellowish mass in 
front of his eyes and asked him: “What does it look like to you?” Jose Arcadio answered sincerely: 

“Dog shit.” 

His father gave him a blow with the back of his hand that brought out blood and tears. That 
night Pilar Ternera put arnica compresses on the swelling, feeling about for the bottle and cotton in 
the dark, and she did everything she wanted with him as long as it did not bother him, making an 
effort to love him without hurting him. They reached such a state of intimacy that later, without 
realizing it, they were whispering to each other. 

“I want to be alone with you,” he said. “One of these days I’m going to tell everybody and we 
can stop all of this sneaking around.” 

She did not try to calm him down. 

“That would be fine,” she said “If we’re alone, we’ll leave the lamp lighted so that we can see 
each other, and I can holler as much as I want without anybody’s having to butt in, and you can 
whisper in my ear any crap you can think of.” 



That conversation, the biting rancor that he felt against his father, and the imminent possibility of 
wild love inspired a serene courage in him. In a spontaneous way, without any preparation, he told 
everything to his brother. 

At first young Aureliano understood only the risk, the immense possibility of danger that Iris 
brother’s adventures implied, and he could not understand the fascination of the subject. Little by 
little he became contaminated with the anxiety. He wondered about the details of the dangers, he 
identified himself with the suffering and enjoyment of his brother, he felt frightened and happy. He 
would stay awake waiting for him until dawn in the solitary bed that seemed to have a bottom of live 
coals, and they would keep on talking until it was time to get up, so that both of them soon suffered 
from the same drowsiness, felt the same lack of interest in alchemy and the wisdom of their father, 
and they took refuge in solitude. “Those kids are out of their heads,” Ursula said. “They must have 
worms.” She prepared a repugnant potion for them made out of mashed wormseed, which they 
both drank with unforeseen stoicism, and they sat down at the same time on their pots eleven times 
in a single day, expelling some rose-colored parasites that they showed to everybody with great 
jubilation, for it allowed them to deceive Ursula as to the origin of their distractions and drowsiness. 
Aureliano not only understood by then, he also lived his brother’s experiences as something of his 
own, for on one occasion when the latter was explaining in great detail the mechanism of love, he 
intermpted him to ask: “What does it feel like?” Jose Arcadio gave an immediate reply: 

“It’s like an earthquake.” 

One January Thursday at two o’clock in the morning, Amaranta was born. Before anyone came 
into the room, Ursula examined her carefully. She was light and watery, like a newt, but all of her 
parts were human: Aureliano did not notice the new thing except when the house became full of 
people. Protected by the confusion, he went off in search of his brother, who had not been in bed 
since eleven o’clock, and it was such an impulsive decision that he did not even have time to ask 
himself how he could get him out of Pilar Ternera’s bedroom. He circled the house for several 
hours, whistling private calls, until the proximity of dawn forced him to go home. In his mother’s 
room, playing with the newborn little sister and with a face that drooped with innocence, he found 
Jose Arcadio. 

Ursula was barely over her forty days’ rest when the gypsies returned. They were the same 
acrobats and jugglers that had brought the ice. Unlike Melquiades’ tribe, they had shown very 
quickly that they were not heralds of progress but purveyors of amusement. Even when they 
brought the ice they did not advertise it for its usefulness in the life of man but as a simple circus 
curiosity. This time, along with many other artifices, they brought a flying carpet. But they did not 
offer it as a fundamental contribution to the development of transport, rather as an object of 
recreation. The people at once dug up their last gold pieces to take advantage of a quick flight over 
the houses of the village. Protected by the delightful cover of collective disorder, Jose Arcadio and 
Pilar passed many relaxing hours. They were two happy lovers among the crowd, and they even 
came to suspect that love could be a feeling that was more relaxing and deep than the happiness, 
wild but momentary, of their secret nights. Pilar, however, broke the spell. Stimulated by the 
enthusiasm that Jose Arcadio showed in her companionship, she confused the form and the 
occasion, and all of a sudden she threw the whole world on top of him. “Now you really are a man,” 
she told him. And since he did not understand what she meant, she spelled it out to him. 

“You’re going to be a father.” 

Jose Arcadio did not dare leave the house for several days. It was enough for him to hear the 
rocking laughter of Pilar in the kitchen to run and take refuge in the laboratory, where the artifacts 
of alchemy had come alive again with Ursula’s blessing. Jose Arcadio Buendia received his errant son 
with joy and initiated him in the search for the philosopher’s stone, which he had finally undertaken. 
One afternoon the boys grew enthusiastic over the flying carpet that went swiftly by the laboratory 



at window level carrying the gypsy who was driving it and several children from the village who were 
merrily waving their hands, but Jose Arcadio Buendia did not even look at it. “Let them dream,” he 
said. “We’ll do better flying than they are doing, and with more scientific resources than a miserable 
bedspread.” In spite of his feigned interest, Jose Arcadio must understood the powers of the 
philosopher’s egg, which to him looked like a poorly blown bottle. He did not succeed in escaping 
from his worries. He lost his appetite and he could not sleep. He fell into an ill humor, the same as 
his father’s over the failure of his undertakings, and such was his upset that Jose Arcadio Buendia 
himself relieved him of his duties in the laboratory, thinking that he had taken alchemy too much to 
heart. Aureliano, of course, understood that his brother’s affliction did not have its source in the 
search for the philosopher’s stone but he could not get into his confidence. He had lost his former 
spontaneity. From an accomplice and a communicative person he had become withdrawn and 
hostile. Anxious for solitude, bitten by a vimlent rancor against the world, one night he left his bed 
as usual, but he did not go to Pilar Ternera’s house, but to mingle is the tumult of the fair. After 
wandering about among all kinds of contraptions with out becoming interested in any of them, he 
spotted something that was not a part of it all: a very young gypsy girl, almost a child, who was 
weighted down by beads and was the most beautiful woman that Jose Arcadio had ever seen in his 
life. She was in the crowd that was witnessing the sad spectacle of the man who had been turned 
into a snake for having disobeyed his parents. 

Jose Arcadio paid no attention. While the sad interrogation of the snake-man was taking place, he 
made his way through the crowd up to the front row, where the gypsy girl was, and he stooped 
behind her. He pressed against her back. The girl tried to separate herself, but Jose Arcadio pressed 
more strongly against her back. Then she felt him. She remained motionless against him, trembling 
with surprise and fear, unable to believe the evidence, and finally she turned her head and looked at 
him with a tremulous smile. At that instant two gypsies put the snake-man into his cage and carried 
him into the tent. The gypsy who was conducting the show announced: 

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, we are going to show the terrible test of the woman who must 
have her head chopped off every night at this time for one hundred and fifty years as punishment 
for having seen what she should not have.” 

Jose Arcadio and the gypsy girl did not witness the decapitation. They went to her tent, where 
they kissed each other with a desperate anxiety while they took off their clothes. The gypsy girl 
removed the starched lace corsets she had on and there she was, changed into practically nothing. 
She was a languid little frog, with incipient breasts and legs so thin that they did not even match the 
size of Jose Arcadio’s arms, but she had a decision and a warmth that compensated for her fragility. 
Nevertheless, Jose Arcadio could not respond to her because they were in a kind of public tent 
where the gypsies passed through with their circus things and did their business, and would even 
tarry by the bed for a game of dice. The lamp hanging from the center pole lighted the whole place 
up. During a pause in the caresses, Jose Arcadio stretched out naked on the bed without knowing 
what to do, while the girl tried to inspire him. A gypsy woman with splendid flesh came in a short 
time after accompanied by a man who was not of the caravan but who was not from the village 
either, and they both began to undress in front of the bed. Without meaning to, the woman looked 
at Jose Arcadio and examined his magnificent animal in repose with a kind of pathetic fervor. 

“My boy,” she exclaimed, “may God preserve you just as you are.” 

Jose Arcadio’s companion asked them to leave them alone, and the couple lay down on the 
ground, close to the bed. The passion of the others woke up Jose Arcadio’s fervor. On the first 
contact the bones of the girl seemed to become disjointed with a disorderly cmnch like the sound of 
a box of dominoes, and her skin broke out into a pale sweat and her eyes filled with tears as her 
whole body exhaled a lugubrious lament and a vague smell of mud. But she bore the impact with a 
firmness of character and a bravery that were admirable. Jose Arcadio felt himself lifted up into the 



air toward a state of seraphic inspiration, where his heart burst forth with an outpouring of tender 
obscenities that entered the girl through her ears and came out of her mouth translated into her 
language. It was Thursday. On Saturday night, Jose Arcadio wrapped a red cloth around his head 
and left with the gypsies. 

When Ursula discovered his absence she searched for him all through the village. In the remains 
of the gypsy camp there was nothing but a garbage pit among the still smoking ashes of the 
extinguished campfires. Someone who was there looking for beads among the trash told Ursula that 
the night before he had seen her son in the tumult of the caravan pushing the snake-man’s cage on a 
cart. “He’s become a gypsy” she shouted to her husband, who had not shown the slightest sign of 
alarm over the disappearance. 

“I hope it’s true,” Jose Arcadio Buendia said, grinding in his mortar the material that had been 
ground a thousand times and reheated and ground again. “That way he’ll learn to be a man.” Ursula 
asked where the gypsies had gone. She went along asking and following the road she had been 
shown, thinking that she still had time to catch up to them. She kept getting farther away from the 
village until she felt so far away that she did not think about returning. Jose Arcadio Buendia did not 
discover that his wife was missing until eight o’clock at night, when he left the material warming in a 
bed of manure and went to see what was wrong with little Amaranta, who was getting hoarse from 
crying. In a few hours he gathered a group of well-equipped men, put Amaranta in the hands of a 
woman who offered to nurse her, and was lost on invisible paths in pursuit of Ursula. Aureliano 
went with them. Some Indian fishermen, whose language they could not understand, told them with 
signs that they had not seen anyone pass. After three days of useless searching they returned to the 

For several weeks Jose Arcadio Buendia let himself be overcome by consternation. He took care 
of little Amaranta like a mother. He bathed and dressed her, took her to be nursed four times a day, 
and even sang to her at night the songs that Ursula never knew how to sing. On a certain occasion 
Pilar Ternera volunteered to do the household chores until Ursula came back. Aureliano, whose 
mysterious intuition had become sharpened with the misfortune, felt a glow of clairvoyance when he 
saw her come in. Then he knew that in some inexplicable way she was to blame for his brother’s 
flight and the consequent disappearance of his mother, and he harassed her with a silent and 
implacable hostility in such a way that the woman did not return to the house. 

Time put things in their place. Jose Arcadio Buendia and his son did not know exactly when they 
returned to the laboratory, dusting things, lighting the water pipe, involved once more in the patient 
manipulation of the material that had been sleeping for several months in its bed of manure. Even 
Amaranta, lying in a wicker basket, observed with curiosity the absorbing work of her father and her 
brother in the small room where the air was rarefied by mercury vapors. On a certain occasion, 
months after Ursula’s departure, strange things began to happen. An empty flask that had been 
forgotten in a cupboard for a long time became so heavy that it could not be moved. A pan of water 
on the worktable boiled without any fire under it for a half hour until it completely evaporated. Jose 
Arcadio Buendia and his son observed those phenomena with startled excitement, unable to explain 
them but interpreting them as predictions of the material. One day Amaranta’s basket began to 
move by itself and made a complete turn about the room, to the consternation of Auerliano, who 
hurried to stop it. But his father did not get upset. He put the basket in its place and tied it to the leg 
of a table, convinced that the long-awaited event was imminent. It was on that occasion that 
Auerliano heard him say: 

“If you don’t fear God, fear him through the metals. 

Suddenly, almost five months after her disappearance, Ursula came back. She arrived exalted, 
rejuvenated, with new clothes in a style that was unknown in the village. Jose Arcadio Buendia could 
barely stand up under the impact. “That was it!” he shouted. “I knew it was going to happen.” And 



he really believed it, for during his prolonged imprisonment as he manipulated the material, he 
begged in the depth of his heart that the longed-for miracle should not be the discovery of the 
philosopher’s stone, or the freeing of the breath that makes metals live, or the faculty to convert the 
hinges and the locks of the house into gold, but what had just happened: Ursula’s return. But she did 
not share his excitement. She gave him a conventional kiss, as if she had been away only an hour, 
and she told him: 

“Look out the door.” 

Jose Arcadio Buendia took a long time to get out of his perplexity when he went out into the 
street and saw the crowd. They were not gypsies. They were men and women like them, with 
straight hair and dark skin, who spoke the same language and complained of the same pains. They 
had mules loaded down with things to eat, oxcarts with furniture and domestic utensils, pure and 
simple earthly accessories put on sale without any fuss by peddlers of everyday reality. They came 
from the other side of the swamp, only two days away, where there were towns that received mail 
every month in the year and where they were familiar with the implements of good living. Ursula 
had not caught up with the gypsies, but she had found the route that her husband had been unable 
to discover in his frustrated search for the great inventions. 



Chapter 3 

PILAR TERNERA’S son was brought to his grand parents’ house two weeks after he was born. Ursula 
admitted him gmdgingly, conquered once more by the obstinacy of her husband, who could not 
tolerate the idea that an offshoot of his blood should be adrift, but he imposed the condition that 
the child should never know his true identity. Although he was given the name Jose Arcadio, they 
ended up calling him simply Arcadio so as to avoid confusion. At that time there was so much 
activity in the town and so much bustle in the house that the care of the children was relegated to a 
secondary level. They were put in the care of Visitacion, a Guajiro Indian woman who had arrived in 
town with a brother in flight from a plague of insomnia that had been scourging their tribe for 
several years. They were both so docile and willing to help that Ursula took them on to help her 
with her household chores. That was how Arcadio and Amaranta came to speak the Guajiro 
language before Spanish, and they learned to drink lizard broth and eat spider eggs without Ursula’s 
knowing it, for she was too busy with a promising business in candy animals. Macondo had changed. 
The people who had come with Ursula spread the news of the good quality of its soil and its 
privileged position with respect to the swamp, so that from the narrow village of past times it 
changed into an active town with stores and workshops and a permanent commercial route over 
which the first Arabs arrived with their baggy pants and rings in their ears, swapping glass beads for 
macaws. Jose Arcadio Buendia did not have a moment’s rest. Fascinated by an immediate reality that 
came to be more fantastic than the vast universe of his imagination, he lost all interest in the 
alchemist’s laboratory, put to rest the material that had become attenuated with months of 
manipulation, and went back to being the enterprising man of earlier days when he had decided 
upon the layout of the streets and the location of the new houses so that no one would enjoy 
privileges that everyone did not have. He acquired such authority among the new arrivals that 
foundations were not laid or walls built without his being consulted, and it was decided that he 
should be the one in charge of the distribution of the land. When the acrobat gypsies returned, with 
their vagabond carnival transformed now into a gigantic organization of games of luck and chance, 
they were received with great joy, for it was thought that Jose Arcadio would be coming back with 
them. But Jose Arcadio did not return, nor did they come with the snake-man, who, according to 
what Ursula thought, was the only one who could tell them about their son, so the gypsies were not 
allowed to camp in town or set foot in it in the future, for they were considered the bearers of 
concupiscence and perversion. Jose Arcadio Buendia, however, was explicit in maintaining that the 
old tribe of Melquiades, who had contributed so much to the growth of the village with his age-old 
wisdom and his fabulous inventions, would always find the gates open. But Melquiades’ tribe, 
according to what the wanderers said, had been wiped off the face of the earth because they had 
gone beyond the limits of human knowledge. 

Emancipated for the moment at least from the torment of fantasy, Jose Arcadio Buendia in a 
short time set up a system of order and work which allowed for only one bit of license: the freeing 
of the birds, which, since the time of the founding, had made time merry with their flutes, and 
installing in their place musical clocks in every house. They were wondrous clocks made of carved 
wood, which the Arabs had traded for macaws and which Jose Arcadio Buendia had synchronized 
with such precision that every half hour the town grew merry with the progressive chords of the 
same song until it reached the climax of a noontime that was as exact and unanimous as a complete 
waltz. It was also Jose Arcadio Buendia who decided during those years that they should plant 
almond trees instead of acacias on the streets, and who discovered, without ever revealing it, a way 
to make them live forever. Many years later, when Macondo was a field of wooden houses with zinc 



roofs, the broken and dusty almond trees still stood on the oldest streets, although no one knew 
who had planted them. While his father was putting the town in order and Inis mother was increasing 
their wealth with her marvelous business of candied little roosters and fish, which left the house 
twice a day strung along sticks of balsa wood, Aureliano spent interminable hours in the abandoned 
laboratory, learning the art of silverwork by his own experimentation. He had shot up so fast that in 
a short time the clothing left behind by his brother no longer fit him and he began to wear his 
father’s, but Visitacion had to sew pleats in the shirt and darts in the pants, because Aureliano had 
not sequined the corpulence of the others. Adolescence had taken away the softness of his voice and 
had made him silent and definitely solitary, but, on the other hand, it had restored the intense 
expression that he had had in his eyes when he was born. He concentrated so much on his 
experiments in silverwork that he scarcely left the laboratory to eat. Worried ever his inner 
withdrawal, Jose Arcadio Buendia gave him the keys to the house and a little money, thinking that 
perhaps he needed a woman. But Aureliano spent the money on muriatic acid to prepare some aqua 
regia and he beautified the keys by plating them with gold. His excesses were hardly comparable to 
those of Arcadio and Amaranta, who had already begun to get their second teeth and still went 
about all day clutching at the Indians’ cloaks, stubborn in their decision not to speak Spanish but the 
Guajiro language. “You shouldn’t complain.” Ursula told her husband. “Children inherit their 
parents’ madness.” And as she was lamenting her misfortune, convinced that the wild behavior of 
her children was something as fearful as a pig’s tail, Aureliano gave her a look that wrapped her in an 
atmosphere of uncertainty. 

“Somebody is coming,” he told her. 

Ursula, as she did whenever he made a prediction, tried to break it down with her housewifely 
logic. It was normal for someone to be coming. Dozens of strangers came through Macondo every 
day without arousing suspicion or secret ideas. Nevertheless, beyond all logic, Aureliano was sure of 
Iris prediction. 

“I don’t know who it will be,” he insisted, “but whoever it is is already on the way.” 

That Sunday, in fact, Rebeca arrived. She was only eleven years old. She had made the difficult 
trip from Manaure with some hide dealers who had taken on the task of delivering her along with a 
letter to Jose Arcadio Buendia, but they could not explain precisely who the person was who had 
asked the favor. Her entire baggage consisted of a small trunk, a little rocking chair with small hand- 
painted flowers, and a canvas sack which kept making a cloc-cloc-cloc sound, where she carried her 
parents’ bones. The letter addressed to Jose Arcadio Buendia was written is very warm terms by 
someone who still loved him very much in spite of time and distance, and who felt obliged by a 
basic humanitarian feeling to do the charitable thing and send him that poor unsheltered orphan, 
who was a second cousin of Ursula’s and consequendy also a relative of Jose Arcadio Buendia, 
although farther removed, because she was the daughter of that unforgettable friend Nicanor Ulloa 
and his very worthy wife Rebeca Montiel, may God keep them in His holy kingdom, whose remains 
the girl was carrying so that they might be given Christian burial. The names mentioned, as well as 
the signature on the letter, were perfecdy legible, but neither Jose Arcadio, Buendia nor Ursula 
remembered having any relatives with those names, nor did they know anyone by the name of the 
sender of the letter, much less the remote village of Manaure. It was impossible to obtain any further 
information from the girl. From the moment she arrived she had been sitting in the rocker, sucking 
her finger and observing everyone with her large, startled eyes without giving any sign of 
understanding what they were asking her. She wore a diagonally striped dress that had been dyed 
black, worn by use, and a pair of scaly patent leather boots. Her hair was held behind her ears with 
bows of black ribbon. She wore a scapular with the images worn away by sweat, and on her right 
wrist the fang of a carnivorous animal mounted on a backing of copper as an amulet against the evil 
eye. Her greenish skin, her stomach, round and tense as a drum, revealed poor health and hunger 



that were older than she was, but when they gave her something to eat she kept the plate on her 
knees without tasting anything. They even began to think that she was a deaf-mute until the Indians 
asked her in their language if she wanted some water and she moved her eyes as if she recognized 
them and said yes with her head. 

They kept her, because there was nothing else they could do. They decided to call her Rebeca, 
which according to the letter was her mother’s name, because Aureliano had the patience to read to 
her the names of all the saints and he did not get a reaction from any one of them. Since there was 
no cemetery in Macondo at that time, for no one had died up till then, they kept the bag of bones to 
wait for a worthy place of burial, and for a long time it got in the way everywhere and would be 
found where least expected, always with its clucking of a broody hen. A long time passed before 
Rebeca became incorporated into the life of the family. She would sit in her small rocker sucking her 
finger in the most remote corner of the house. Nothing attracted her attention except the music of 
the clocks, which she would look for every half hour with her frightened eyes as if she hoped to find 
it someplace in the air. They could not get her to eat for several days. No one understood why she 
had not died of hunger until the Indians, who were aware of everything, for they went ceaselessly 
about the house on their stealthy feet, discovered that Rebeca only liked to eat the damp earth of the 
courtyard and the cake of whitewash that she picked of the walls with her nails. It was obvious that 
her parents, or whoever had raised her, had scolded her for that habit because she did it secretively 
and with a feeling of guilt, trying to put away supplies so that she could eat when no one was 
looking. From then on they put her under an implacable watch. They threw cow gall onto the 
courtyard and, mbbed hot chili on the walls, thinking they could defeat her pernicious vice with 
those methods, but she showed such signs of astuteness and ingenuity to find some earth that 
Ursula found herself forced to use more drastic methods. She put some orange juice and rhubarb 
into a pan that she left in the dew all night and she gave her the dose the following day on an empty 
stomach. Although no one had told her that it was the specific remedy for the vice of eating earth, 
she thought that any bitter substance in an empty stomach would have to make the liver react. 
Rebeca was so rebellious and strong in spite of her frailness that they had to tie her up like a calf to 
make her swallow the medicine, and they could barely keep back her kicks or bear up under the 
strange hieroglyphics that she alternated with her bites and spitting, and that, according to what the 
scandalized Indians said, were the vilest obscenities that one could ever imagine in their language. 
When Ursula discovered that, she added whipping to the treatment. It was never established 
whether it was the rhubarb or the beatings that had effect, or both of them together, but the truth 
was that in a few weeks Rebeca began to show signs of recovery. She took part in the games of 
Arcadio and Amaranta, who treated her like an older sister, and she ate heartily, using the utensils 
properly. It was soon revealed that she spoke Spanish with as much fluency as the Indian language, 
that she had a remarkable ability for manual work, and that she could sing the waltz of the clocks 
with some very funny words that she herself had invented. It did not take long for them to consider 
her another member of the family. She was more affectionate to Ursula than any of her own 
children had been, and she called Arcadio, and Amaranta brother and sister, Aureliano uncle, and 
Jose Arcadio Buendia grandpa. So that she finally deserved, as much as the others, the name of 
Rebeca Buendia, the only one that she ever had and that she bore with dignity until her death. 

One night about the time that Rebeca was cured of the vice of eating earth and was brought to 
sleep in the other children’s room, the Indian woman, who slept with them awoke by chance and 
heard a strange, intermittent sound in the corner. She got up in alarm, thinking that an animal had 
come into the room, and then she saw Rebeca in the rocker, sucking her finger and with her eyes 
lighted up in the darkness like those of a cat. Terrified, exhausted by her fate, Visitacion recognized 
in those eyes the symptoms of the sickness whose threat had obliged her and her brother to exile 



themselves forever from an age-old kingdom where they had been prince and princess. It was the 
insomnia plague. 

Cataure, the Indian, was gone from the house by morning. His sister stayed because her fatalistic 
heart told her that the lethal sickness would follow her, no matter what, to the farthest corner of the 
earth. No one understood Visitacion’s alarm. “If we don’t ever sleep again, so much the better,” Jose 
Arcadio Buendia said in good humor. “That way we can get more out of life.” But the Indian 
woman explained that the most fearsome part of the sickness of insomnia was not the impossibility 
of sleeping, for the body did not feel any fatigue at all, but its inexorable evolution toward a more 
critical manifestation: a loss of memory. She meant that when the sick person became used to his 
state of vigil, the recollection of his childhood began to be erased from his memory, then the name 
and notion of tilings, and finally the identity of people and even the awareness of his own being, 
until he sank into a kind of idiocy that had no past. Jose Arcadio Buendia, dying with laughter, 
thought that it was just a question of one of the many illnesses invented by the Indians’ supersti¬ 
tions. But Ursula, just to be safe, took the precaution of isolating Rebeca from the other children. 

After several weeks, when Visitacion’s terror seemed to have died down, Jose Arcadio Buendia 
found himself rolling over in bed, unable to fall asleep. Ursula, who had also awakened, asked him 
what was wrong, and he answered: “I’m thinking about Pmdencio Aguilar again.” They did not 
sleep a minute, but the following day they felt so rested that they forgot about the bad night. 
Aureliano commented with surprise at lunchtime that he felt very well in spite of the fact that he had 
spent the whole night in the laboratory gilding a brooch that he planned to give to Ursula for her 
birthday. They did not become alarmed until the third day, when no one felt sleepy at bedtime and 
they realized that they had gone more than fifty hours without sleeping. 

“The children are awake too,” the Indian said with her fatalistic conviction. “Once it gets into a 
house no one can escape the plague.” 

They had indeed contracted the illness of insomnia. Ursula, who had learned from her mother 
the medicinal value of plants, prepared and made them all drink a brew of monkshood, but they 
could not get to sleep and spent the whole day dreaming on their feet. In that state of hallucinated 
lucidity, not only did they see the images of their own dreams, but some saw the images dreamed by 
others. It was as if the house were full of visitors. Sitting in her rocker in a corner of the kitchen, 
Rebeca dreamed that a man who looked very much like her, dressed in white linen and with his shirt 
collar closed by a gold button, was bringing her a bouquet of roses. He was accompanied by a 
woman with delicate hands who took out one rose and put it in the child’s hair. Ursula understood 
that the man and woman were Rebeca’s parents, but even though she made a great effort to 
recognize them, she confirmed her certainty that she had never seen them. In the meantime, 
through an oversight that Jose Arcadio Buendia never forgave himself for, the candy animals made 
in the house were still being sold in the town. Children and adults sucked with delight on the 
delicious little green roosters of insomnia, the exquisite pink fish of insomnia, and the tender yellow 
ponies of insomnia, so that dawn on Monday found the whole town awake. No one was alarmed at 
first. On the contrary, they were happy at not sleeping because there was so much to do in Macondo 
in those days that there was barely enough time. They worked so hard that soon they had nothing 
else to do and they could be found at three o’clock in the morning with their arms crossed, counting 
the notes in the waltz of the clock. Those who wanted to sleep, not from fatigue but because of the 
nostalgia for dreams, tried all kinds of methods of exhausting themselves. They would gather 
together to converse endlessly, to tell over and over for hours on end the same jokes, to complicate 
to the limits of exasperation the story about the capon, which was an endless game in which the 
narrator asked if they wanted him to tell them the story about the capon, and when they answered 
yes, the narrator would say that he had not asked them to say yes, but whether they wanted him to 
tell them the story about the capon, and when they answered no, the narrator told them that he had 



not asked them to say no, but whether they wanted him to tell them the story about the capon, and 
when they remained silent the narrator told them that he had not asked them to remain silent but 
whether they wanted him to tell them the story about the capon, and no one could leave because the 
narrator would say that he had not asked them to leave but whether they wanted him to tell them 
the story about the capon, and so on and on in a vicious circle that lasted entire nights. 

When Jose Arcadio Buendia realized that the plague had invaded the town, he gathered together 
the heads of families to explain to them what he knew about the sickness of insomnia, and they 
agreed on methods to prevent the scourge from spreading to other towns in the swamp. That was 
why they took the bells off the goats, bells that the Arabs had swapped them for macaws, and put 
them at the entrance to town at the disposal of those who would not listen to the advice and 
entreaties of the sentinels and insisted on visiting the town. All strangers who passed through the 
streets of Macondo at that time had to ring their bells so that the sick people would know that they 
were healthy. They were not allowed to eat or drink anything during their stay, for there was no 
doubt but that the illness was transmitted by mouth, and all food and drink had been contaminated 
by insomnia. In that way they kept the plague restricted to the perimeter of the town. So effective 
was the quarantine that the day came when the emergency situation was accepted as a natural thing 
and life was organized in such a way that work picked up its rhythm again and no one worried any 
more about the useless habit of sleeping. 

It was Aureliano who conceived the formula that was to protect them against loss of memory for 
several months. He discovered it by chance. An expert insomniac, having been one of the first, he 
had learned the art of silverwork to perfection. One day he was looking for the small anvil that he 
used for laminating metals and he could not remember its name. His father told him: “Stake.” 
Aureliano wrote the name on a piece of paper that he pasted to the base of the small anvil: stake. In 
that way he was sure of not forgetting it in the future. It did not occur to him that this was the first 
manifestation of a loss of memory, because the object had a difficult name to remember. But a few 
days later be, discovered that he had trouble remembering almost every object in the laboratory. 
Then he marked them with their respective names so that all he had to do was read the inscription 
in order to identify them. When his father told him about his alarm at having forgotten even the 
most impressive happenings of his childhood, Aureliano explained his method to him, and Jose 
Arcadio Buendia put it into practice all through the house and later on imposed it on the whole 
village. With an inked brush he marked everything with its name: table, chair, clock, door, wall, bed, pan. 
He went to the corral and marked the animals and plants: cow, goat, pig, hen, cassava, caladium, banana. 
Little by little, studying the infinite possibilities of a loss of memory, he realized that the day might 
come when tilings would be recognized by their inscriptions but that no one would remember their 
use. Then he was more explicit. The sign that he hung on the neck of the cow was an exemplary 
proof of the way in which the inhabitants of Macondo were prepared to fight against loss of 
memory: This is the cow. She must be milked every morning so that she will produce milk, and the milk must be 
boiled in order to be mixed with coffee to make coffee and milk. Thus they went on living in a reality that was 
slipping away, momentarily captured by words, but which would escape irremediably when they 
forgot the values of the written letters. 

At the beginning of the road into the swamp they put up a sign that said MACONDO and another 
larger one on the main street that said GOD EXISTS. In all the houses keys to memorizing objects 
and feelings had been written. But the system demanded so much vigilance and moral strength that 
many succumbed to the spell of an imaginary reality, one invented by themselves, which was less 
practical for them but more comforting. Pilar Ternera was the one who contributed most to 
popularize that mystification when she conceived the trick of reading the past in cards as she had 
read the future before. By means of that recourse the insomniacs began to live in a world built on 
the uncertain alternatives of the cards, where a father was remembered faintly as the dark man who 



had arrived at the beginning of April and a mother was remembered only as the dark woman who 
wore a gold ring on her left hand, and where a birth date was reduced to the last Tuesday on which a 
lark sang in the laurel tree. Defeated by those practices of consolation, Jose Arcadio Buendia then 
decided to build the memory machine that he had desired once in order to remember the marvelous 
inventions of the gypsies. The artifact was based on the possibility of reviewing every morning, from 
beginning to end, the totality of knowledge acquired during one’s life. He conceived of it as a 
spinning dictionary that a person placed on the axis could operate by means of a lever, so that in a 
very few hours there would pass before his eyes the notions most necessary for life. He had 
succeeded in writing almost fourteen thousand entries when along the road from the swamp a 
strange-looking old man with the sad sleepers’ bell appeared, carrying a bulging suitcase tied with a 
rope and pulling a cart covered with black cloth. He went straight to the house of Jose Arcadio 

Visitacion did not recognize him when she opened the door and she thought he had come with 
the idea of selling something, unaware that nothing could be sold in a town that was sinking 
irrevocably into the quicksand of forgetfulness. He was a decrepit man. Although his voice was also 
broken by uncertainty and his hands seemed to doubt the existence of things, it was evident that he 
came from the world where men could still sleep and remember. Jose Arcadio Buendia found him 
sitting in the living room fanning himself with a patched black hat as he read with compassionate 
attention the signs pasted to the walls. He greeted him with a broad show of affection, afraid that he 
had known him at another time and that he did not remember him now. But the visitor was aware 
of his falseness. He felt himself forgotten, not with the irremediable forgetfulness of the heart, but 
with a different kind of forgetfulness, which was more cmel and irrevocable and which he knew very 
well because it was the forgetfulness of death. Then he understood. He opened the suitcase 
crammed with indecipherable objects and from among then he took out a little case with many 
flasks. He gave Jose Arcadio Buendia a drink of a gentle color and the light went on in his memory. 
His eyes became moist from weeping even before he noticed himself in an absurd living room 
where objects were labeled and before he was ashamed of the solemn nonsense written on the walls, 
and even before he recognized the newcomer with a dazzling glow of joy. It was Melquiades. 

While Macondo was celebrating the recovery of its memory, Jose Arcadio Buendia and 
Melquiades dusted off their old friendship. The gypsy was inclined to stay in the town. He really had 
been through death, but he had returned because he could not bear the solitude. Repudiated by his 
tribe, having lost all of his supernatural faculties because of his faithfulness to life, he decided to take 
refuge in that corner of the world which had still not been discovered by death, dedicated to the 
operation of a daguerreotype laboratory. Jose Arcadio Buendia had never heard of that invention. 
But when he saw himself and his whole family fastened onto a sheet of iridescent metal for an 
eternity, he was mute with stupefaction. That was the date of the oxidized daguerreotype in which 
Jose Arcadio Buendia appeared with his brisdy and graying hair, his card board collar attached to his 
shirt by a copper button, and an expression of startled solemnity, whom Ursula described, dying 
with laughter, as a “frightened general.” Jose Arcadio Buendia was, in fact, frightened on that dear 
December morning when the daguerreotype was made, for he was thinking that people were slowly 
wearing away while his image would endure an a metallic plaque. Through a curious reversal of 
custom, it was Ursula who got that idea out of his head, as it was also she who forgot her ancient 
bitterness and decided that Melquiades would stay on in the house, although she never permitted 
them to make a daguerreotype of her because (according to her very words) she did not want to 
survive as a laughingstock for her grandchildren. That morning she dressed the children in their best 
clothes, powdered their faces, and gave a spoonful of marrow syrup to each one so that they would 
all remain absolutely motionless during the nearly two minutes in front of Melquiades fantastic 
camera. In the family daguerreotype, the only one that ever existed, Aureliano appeared dressed in 



black velvet between Amaranta and Rebeca. He had the same languor and the same clairvoyant look 
that he would have years later as he faced the firing squad. But he still had not sensed the 
premonition of his fate. He was an expert silversmith, praised all over the swampland for the 
delicacy of his work. In the workshop, which he shared with Melquiades’ mad laboratory, he could 
barely be heard breathing. He seemed to be taking refuge in some other time, while his father and 
the gypsy with shouts interpreted the predictions of Nostradamus amidst a noise of flasks and trays 
and the disaster of spilled acids and silver bromide that was lost in the twists and turns it gave at 
every instant. That dedication to his work, the good judgment with which he directed his attention, 
had allowed Aureliano to earn in a short time more money than Ursula had with her delicious candy 
fauna, but everybody thought it strange that he was now a full-grown man and had not known a 
woman. It was true that he had never had one. 

Several months later saw the return of Francisco the Man, as ancient vagabond who was almost 
two hundred years old and who frequently passed through Macondo distributing songs that he 
composed himself. In them Francisco the Man told in great detail the things that had happened in 
the towns along his route, from Manaure to the edge of the swamp, so that if anyone had a message 
to send or an event to make public, he would pay him two cents to include it in his repertory. That 
was how Ursula learned of the death of her mother, as a simple consequence of listening to the 
songs in the hope that they would say something about her son Jose Arcadio. Francisco the Man, 
called that because he had once defeated the devil in a duel of improvisation, and whose real name 
no one knew, disappeared from Macondo during the insomnia plague and one night he appeared 
suddenly in Catarino’s store. The whole town went to listen to him to find out what had happened 
in the world. On that occasion there arrived with him a woman who was so fat that four Indians had 
to carry her in a rocking chair, and an adolescent mulatto girl with a forlorn look who protected her 
from the sun with an umbrella. Aureliano went to Catarino’s store that night. He found Francisco 
the Man, like a monolithic chameleon, sitting in the midst of a circle of bystanders. He was singing 
the news with his old, out-of-tune voice, accompanying himself with the same archaic accordion that 
Sir Walter Raleigh had given him in the Guianas and keeping time with his great walking feet that 
were cracked from saltpeter. In front of a door at the rear through which men were going and 
coming, the matron of the rocking chair was sitting and fanning herself in silence. Catarino, with a 
felt rose behind his ear, was selling the gathering mugs of fermented cane juice, and he took 
advantage of the occasion to go over to the men and put his hand on them where he should not 
have. Toward midnight the heat was unbearable. Aureliano listened to the news to the end without 
hearing anything that was of interest to his family. He was getting ready to go home when the 
matron signaled him with her hand. 

“You go in too.” she told him. “It only costs twenty cents.” 

Aureliano threw a coin into the hopper that the matron had in her lap and went into the room 
without knowing why. The adolescent mulatto girl, with her small bitch’s teats, was naked on the 
bed. Before Aureliano sixty-three men had passed through the room that night. From being used so 
much, kneaded with sweat and sighs, the air in the room had begun to turn to mud. The girl took 
off the soaked sheet and asked Aureliano to hold it by one side. It was as heavy as a piece of canvas. 
They squeezed it, twisting it at the ends until it regained its natural weight. They turned over the mat 
and the sweat came out of the other side. Aureliano was anxious for that operation never to end. He 
knew the theoretical mechanics of love, but he could not stay on his feet because of the weakness of 
his knees, and although he had goose pimples on his burning skin he could not resist the urgent 
need to expel the weight of his bowels. When the girl finished fixing up the bed and told him to get 
undressed, he gave her a confused explanation: “They made me come in. They told me to throw 
twenty cents into the hopper and hurry up.” The girl understood his confusion. “If you throw in 
twenty cents more when you go out, you can stay a little longer,” she said softly. Aureliano got 



undressed, tormented by shame, unable to get rid of the idea that-his nakedness could not stand 
comparison with that of his brother. In spite of the girl’s efforts he felt more and more indifferent 
and terribly alone. “I’ll throw in other twenty cents,” he said with a desolate voice. The girl thanked 
him in silence. Her back was raw. Her skin was stuck to her ribs and her breathing was forced 
because of an immeasurable exhaustion. Two years before, far away from there, she had fallen asleep 
without putting out the candle and had awakened surrounded by flames. The house where she lived 
with the grandmother who had raised her was reduced to ashes. Since then her grandmother carried 
her from town to town, putting her to bed for twenty cents in order to make up the value of the 
burned house. According to the girl’s calculations, she still had ten years of seventy men per night, 
because she also had to pay the expenses of the trip and food for both of them as well as the pay of 
the Indians who carried the rocking chair. When the matron knocked on the door the second time, 
Aureliano left the room without having done anything, troubled by a desire to weep. That night he 
could not sleep, thinking about the girl, with a mixture of desire and pity. He felt an irresistible need 
to love her and protect her. At dawn, worn out by insomnia and fever, he made the calm decision to 
marry her in order to free her from the despotism of her grandmother and to enjoy all the nights of 
satisfaction that she would give the seventy men. But at ten o’clock in the morning, when he reached 
Catarino’s store, the girl had left town. 

Time mitigated his mad proposal, but it aggravated his feelings of frustration. He took refuge in 
work. He resigned himself to being a womanless man for all his life in order to hide the shame of his 
uselessness. In the meantime, Melquiades had printed on his plates everything that was printable in 
Macondo, and he left the daguerreotype laboratory to the fantasies of Jose Arcadio Buendia who 
had resolved to use it to obtain scientific proof of the existence of God. Through a complicated 
process of superimposed exposures taken in different parts of the house, he was sure that sooner or 
later he would get a daguerreotype of God, if He existed, or put an end once and for all to the 
supposition of His existence. Melquiades got deeper into his interpretations of Nostradamus. He 
would stay up until very late, suffocating in his faded velvet vest, scribbling with his tiny sparrow 
hands, whose rings had lost the glow of former times. One night he thought he had found a 
prediction of the future of Macondo. It was to be a luminous city with great glass houses where 
there was no trace remaining of the race of the Buendia. “It’s a mistake,” Jose Arcadio Buendia 
thundered. “They won’t be houses of glass but of ice, as I dreamed, and there will always be a 
Buendia, per omnia secula seculorumP Ursula fought to preserve common sense in that extravagant 
house, having broadened her business of little candy animals with an oven that went all night turning 
out baskets and more baskets of bread and a prodigious variety of puddings, meringues, and cookies, 
which disappeared in a few hours on the roads winding through the swamp. She had reached an age 
where she had a right to rest, but she was nonetheless more and more active. So busy was she in her 
prosperous enterprises that one afternoon she looked distractedly toward the courtyard while the 
Indian woman helped her sweeten the dough and she saw two unknown and beautiful adolescent 
girls doing frame embroidery in the light of the sunset. They were Rebeca and Amaranta. As soon as 
they had taken off the mourning clothes for their grandmother, which they wore with inflexible 
rigor for three years, their bright clothes seemed to have given them a new place in the world. 
Rebeca, contrary to what might have been expected, was the more beautiful. She had a light 
complexion, large and peaceful eyes, and magical hands that seemed to work out the design of the 
embroidery with invisible threads. Amaranta, the younger, was somewhat graceless, but she had the 
natural distinction, the inner tightness of her dead grandmother. Next to them, although he was 
already revealing the physical drive of his father, Arcadio looked like a child. He set about learning 
the art of silverwork with Aureliano, who had also taught him how to read and write. Ursula 
suddenly realized that the house had become full of people, that her children were on the point of 
marrying and having children, and that they would be obliged to scatter for lack of space. Then she 



took out the money she had accumulated over long years of hard labor, made some arrangements 
with her customers, and undertook the enlargement of the house. She had a formal parlor for visits 
built, another one that was more comfortable and cool for daily use, a dining room with a table with 
twelve places where the family could sit with all of their guests, nine bedrooms with windows on the 
courtyard and a long porch protected from the heat of noon by a rose garden with a railing on 
which to place pots of ferns and begonias. She had the kitchen enlarged to hold two ovens. The 
granary where Pilar Ternera had read Jose Arcadio’s future was tom down and another twice as large 
built so that there would never be a lack of food in the house. She had baths built is the courtyard in 
the shade of the chestnut tree, one for the women and another for the men, and in the rear a large 
stable, a fenced-in chicken yard, a shed for the milk cows, and an aviary open to the four winds so 
that wandering birds could roost there at their pleasure. Followed by dozens of masons and 
carpenters, as if she had contracted her husband’s hallucinating fever, Ursula fixed the position of 
light and heat and distributed space without the least sense of its limitations. The primitive building 
of the founders became filled with tools and materials, of workmen exhausted by sweat, who asked 
everybody please not to molest them, exasperated by the sack of bones that followed them 
everywhere with its dull rattle. In that discomfort, breathing quicklime and tar, no one could see very 
well how from the bowels of the earth there was rising not only the largest house is the town, but 
the most hospitable and cool house that had ever existed in the region of the swamp. Jose Buendia, 
trying to surprise Divine Providence in the midst of the cataclysm, was the one who least 
understood it. The new house was almost finished when Ursula drew him out of his chimerical 
world in order to inform him that she had an order to paint the front blue and not white as they had 
wanted. She showed him the official document. Jose Arcadio Buendia, without understanding what 
his wife was talking about, deciphered the signature. 

“Who is this fellow?” he asked: 

“The magistrate,” Ursula answered disconsolately. They say he’s an authority sent by the 

Don Apolinar Moscote, the magistrate, had arrived in Macondo very quietly. He put up at the 
Hotel Jacob—built by one of the first Arabs who came to swap knickknacks for macaws—and on 
the following day he rented a small room with a door on the street two blocks away from the 
Buendia house. He set up a table and a chair that he had bought from Jacob, nailed up on the wall 
the shield of the republic that he had brought with him, and on the door he painted the sign: 
Magistrate. His first order was for all the houses to be painted blue in celebration of the anniversary 
of national independence. Jose Arcadio Buendia, with the copy of the order in his hand, found him 
taking his nap in a hammock he had set up in the narrow office. “Did you write this paper?” he 
asked him. Don Apolinar Moscote, a mature man, timid, with a ruddy complexion, said yes. “By 
what right?” Jose Arcadio Buendia asked again. Don Apolinar Moscote picked up a paper from the 
drawer of the table and showed it to him. “I have been named magistrate of this town.” Jose 
Arcadio Buendia did not even look at the appointment. 

“In this town we do not give orders with pieces of paper,” he said without losing his calm. “And 
so that you know it once and for all, we don’t need any judge here because there’s nothing that 
needs judging.” 

Facing Don Apolinar Moscote, still without raising his voice, he gave a detailed account of how 
they had founded the village, of how they had distributed the land, opened the roads, and 
introduced the improvements that necessity required without having bothered the government and 
without anyone having bothered them. “We are so peaceful that none of us has died even of a 
natural death,” he said. “You can see that we still don’t have any cemetery.” No once was upset that 
the government had not helped them. On the contrary, they were happy that up until then it had let 
them grow in peace, and he hoped that it would continue leaving them that way, because they had 



not founded a town so that the first upstart who came along would tell them what to do. Don 
Apolinar had put on his denim jacket, white like his trousers, without losing at any moment the 
elegance of his gestures. 

“So that if you want to stay here like any other ordinary citizen, you’re quite welcome,” Jose 
Arcadio Buendla concluded. “But if you’ve come to cause disorder by making the people paint their 
houses blue, you can pick up your junk and go back where you came from. Because my house is 
going to be white, white, like a dove.” 

Don Apolinar Moscote turned pale. He took a step backward and tightened his jaws as he said 
with a certain affliction: 

“I must warn you that I’m armed.” 

Jose Arcadio Buendla did not know exactly when his hands regained the useful strength with 
which he used to pull down horses. He grabbed Don Apolinar Moscote by the lapels and lifted him 
up to the level of his eyes. 

“I’m doing this,” he said, “because I would rather carry you around alive and not have to keep 
carrying you around dead for the rest of my life.” 

In that way he carried him through the middle of the street, suspended by the lapels, until he put 
him down on his two feet on the swamp road. A week later he was back with six barefoot and 
ragged soldiers, armed with shotguns, and an oxcart in which his wife and seven daughters were 
traveling. Two other carts arrived later with the furniture, the baggage, and the household utensils. 
He settled his family in the Hotel Jacob, while he looked for a house, and he went back to open his 
office under the protection of the soldiers. The founders of Macondo, resolving to expel the 
invaders, went with their older sons to put themselves at the disposal of Jose Arcadio Buendla. But 
he was against it, as he explained, because it was not manly to make trouble for someone in front of 
his family, and Don Apolinar had returned with his wife and daughters. So he decided to resolve the 
situation in a pleasant way. 

Aureliano went with him. About that time he had begun to cultivate the black mustache with 
waxed tips and the somewhat stentorian voice that would characterize him in the war. Unarmed, 
without paying any attention to the guards, they went into the magistrate’s office. Don Apolinar 
Moscote did not lose his calm. He introduced them to two of his daughters who happened to be 
there: Amparo, sixteen, dark like her mother, and Remedios, only nine, a pretty little girl with lily- 
colored skin and green eyes. They were gracious and well-mannered. As soon as the men came in, 
before being introduced, they gave them chairs to sit on. But they both remained standing. 

“Very well, my friend,” Jose Arcadio Buendla said, “you may stay here, not because you have 
those bandits with shotguns at the door, but out of consideration for your wife and daughters.” 

Don Apolinar Moscote was upset, but Jose Arcadio Buendla did not give him time to reply. “We 
only make two conditions,” he went on. “The first: that everyone can paint his house the color he 
feels like. The second: that the soldiers leave at once. We will guarantee order for you.” The 
magistrate raised his right hand with all the fingers extended. 

“Your word of honor?” 

“The word of your enemy,” Jose Arcadio Buendla said. And he added in a bitter tone: “Because I 
must tell you one thing: you and I are still enemies.” 

The soldiers left that same afternoon. A few days later Jose Arcadio Buendla found a house for 
the magistrate’s family. Everybody was at peace except Aureliano. The image of Remedios, the 
magistrate’s younger daughter, who, because of her age, could have been his daughter, kept paining 
him in some part of his body. It was a physical sensation that almost bothered him when he walked, 
like a pebble in his shoe. 



Chapter 4 

THE NEW HOUSE, white, like a dove, was inaugurated with a dance. Ursula had got that idea from 
the afternoon when she saw Rebeca and Amaranta changed into adolescents, and it could almost 
have been said that the main reason behind the construction was a desire to have a proper place for 
the girls to receive visitors. In order that nothing would be lacking in splendor she worked like a 
galley slave as the repairs were under way, so that before they were finished she had ordered costly 
necessities for the decorations, the table service, and the marvelous invention that was to arouse the 
astonishment of the town and the jubilation of the young people: the pianola. They delivered it 
broken down, packed in several boxes that were unloaded along with the Viennese furniture, the 
Bohemian crystal, the table service from the Indies Company, the tablecloths from Holland, and a 
rich variety of lamps and candlesticks, hangings and drapes. The import house sent along at its own 
expense an Italian expert, Pietro Crespi, to assemble and tune the pianola, to instruct the purchasers 
in its functioning, and to teach them how to dance the latest music printed on its six paper rolls. 

Pietro Crespi was young and blond, the most handsome and well mannered man who had ever 
been seen in Macondo, so scrupulous in his dress that in spite of the suffocating heat he would work 
in his brocade vest and heavy coat of dark cloth. Soaked in sweat, keeping a reverent distance from 
the owners of the house, he spent several weeks shut up is the parlor with a dedication much like 
that of Aureliano in his silverwork. One morning, without opening the door, without calling anyone 
to witness the miracle, he placed the first roll in the pianola and the tormenting hammering and the 
constant noise of wooden lathings ceased in a silence that was startled at the order and neatness of 
the music. They all ran to the parlor. Jose Arcadio Buendia was as if stmck by lightning, not because 
of the beauty of the melody, but because of the automatic working of the keys of the pianola, and he 
set up Melquiades’ camera with the hope of getting a daguerreotype of the invisible player. That day 
the Italian had lunch with them. Rebeca and Amaranta, serving the table, were intimidated by the 
way in which the angelic man with pale and ringless hands manipulated the utensils. In the living 
room, next to the parlor, Pietro Crespi taught them how to dance. He showed them the steps 
without touching them, keeping time with a metronome, under the friendly eye of Ursula, who did 
not leave the room for a moment while her daughters had their lesson. Pietro Crespi wore special 
pants on those days, very elastic and tight, and dancing slippers, “You don’t have to worry so 
much,” Jose Arcadio Buendia told her. “The man’s a fairy.” But she did not leave off her vigilance 
until the apprenticeship was over and the Italian left Macondo. Then they began to organize the 
party. Ursula drew up a strict guest list, in which the only ones invited were the descendants of the 
founders, except for the family of Pilar Ternera, who by then had had two more children by 
unknown fathers. It was truly a high-class list, except that it was determined by feelings of 
friendship, for those favored were not only the oldest friends of Jose Arcadio Buendia’s house since 
before they undertook the exodus and the founding of Macondo, but also their sons and grandsons, 
who were the constant companions of Aureliano and Arcadio since infancy, and their daughters, 
who were the only ones who visited the house to embroider with Rebeca and Amaranta. Don 
Apolinar Moscote, the benevolent ruler whose activity had been reduced to the maintenance from 
his scanty resources of two policemen armed with wooden clubs, was a figurehead. In older to 
support the household expenses his daughters had opened a sewing shop, where they made felt 
flowers as well as guava delicacies, and wrote love notes to order. But in spite of being modest and 
hard-working, the most beautiful girls in Iowa, and the most skilled at the new dances, they did not 
manage to be considered for the party. 



While Ursula and the girls unpacked furniture, polished silverware, and hung pictures of maidens 
in boats full of roses, which gave a breath of new life to the naked areas that the masons had built, 
Jose Arcadio Buendia stopped his pursuit of the image of God, convinced of His nonexistence, and 
he took the pianola apart in order to decipher its magical secret. Two days before the party, 
swamped in a shower of leftover keys and hammers, bungling in the midst of a mix-up of strings 
that would unroll in one direction and roll up again in the other, he succeeded in a fashion in putting 
the instmment back together. There had never been as many surprises and as much dashing about as 
in those days, but the new pitch lamps were lighted on the designated day and hour. The house was 
opened, still smelling of resin and damp whitewash, and the children and grandchildren of the 
founders saw the porch with ferns and begonias, the quiet rooms, the garden saturated with the 
fragrance of the roses, and they gathered together in the parlor, facing the unknown invention that 
had been covered with a white sheet. Those who were familiar with the piano, popular in other 
towns in the swamp, felt a little disheartened, but more bitter was Ursula’s disappointment when she 
put in the first roll so that Amaranta and Rebeca could begin the dancing and the mechanism did 
not work. Melquiades, almost blind by then, crumbling with decrepitude, used the arts of his 
timeless wisdom in an attempt to fix it. Finally Jose Arcadio Buendia managed, by mistake, to move 
a device that was stuck and the music came out, first in a burst and then in a flow of mixed-up 
notes. Beating against the strings that had been put in without order or concert and had been tuned 
with temerity, the hammers let go. But the stubborn descendants of the twenty-one intrepid people 
who plowed through the mountains in search of the sea to the west avoided the reefs of the melodic 
mix-up and the dancing went on until dawn. 

Pietro Crespi came back to repair the pianola. Rebeca and Amaranta helped him put the strings 
in order and helped him with their laughter at the mix-up of the melodies. It was extremely pleasant 
and so chaste in its way that Ursula ceased her vigilance. On the eve of his departure a farewell 
dance for him was improvised with the pianola and with Rebeca he put on a skillful demonstration 
of modern dance, Arcadio and Amaranta matched them in grace and skill. But the exhibition was 
intermpted because Pilar Ternera, who was at the door with the onlookers, had a fight, biting and 
hair pulling, with a woman who had dared to comment that Arcadio had a woman’s behind. Toward 
midnight Pietro Crespi took his leave with a sentimental little speech, and he promised to return 
very soon. Rebeca accompanied him to the door, and having closed up the house and put out the 
lamps, she went to her room to weep. It was an inconsolable weeping that lasted for several days, 
the cause of which was not known even by Amaranta. Her hermetism was not odd. Although she 
seemed expansive and cordial, she had a solitary character and an impenetrable heart. She was a 
splendid adolescent with long and firm bones, but she still insisted on using the small wooden 
rocking chair with which she had arrived at the house, reinforced many times and with the arms 
gone. No one had discovered that even at that age she still had the habit of sucking her finger. That 
was why she would not lose an opportunity to lock herself in the bathroom and had acquired the 
habit of sleeping with her face to the wall. On rainy afternoons, embroidering with a group of 
friends on the begonia porch, she would lose the thread of the conversation and a tear of nostalgia 
would salt her palate when she saw the strips of damp earth and the piles of mud that the 
earthworms had pushed up in the garden. Those secret tastes, defeated in the past by oranges and 
rhubarb, broke out into an irrepressible urge when she began to weep. She went back to eating 
earth. The first time she did it almost out of curiosity, sure that the bad taste would be the best cure 
for the temptation. And, in fact, she could not bear the earth in her mouth. But she persevered, 
overcome by the growing anxiety, and little by little she was getting back her ancestral appetite, the 
taste of primary minerals, the unbridled satisfaction of what was the original food. She would put 
handfuls of earth in her pockets, and ate them in small bits without being seen, with a confused 
feeling of pleasure and rage, as she instmcted her girl friends in the most difficult needlepoint and 



spoke about other men, who did not deserve the sacrifice of having one eat the whitewash on the 
walls because of them. The handfuls of earth made the only man who deserved that show of 
degradation less remote and more certain, as if the ground that he walked on with his fine patent 
leather boots in another part of the world were transmitting to her the weight and the temperature 
of his blood in a mineral savor that left a harsh aftertaste in her mouth and a sediment of peace in 
her heart. One afternoon, for no reason, Amparo Moscote asked permission to see the house. 
Amaranta and Rebeca, disconcerted by the unexpected visit, attended her with a stiff formality. They 
showed her the remodeled mansion, they had her listen to the rolls on the pianola, and they offered 
her orange marmalade and crackers. Amparo gave a lesson in dignity, personal charm, and good 
manners that impressed Ursula in the few moments that she was present during the visit. After two 
hours, when the conversation was beginning to wane, Amparo took advantage of Amaranta’s 
distraction and gave Rebeca a letter. She was able to see the name of the Estimable Senorita Rebeca 
Buendia, written in the same methodical hand, with the same green ink, and the same delicacy of 
words with which the instructions for the operation of the pianola were written, and she folded the 
letter with the tips of her fingers and hid it in her bosom, looking at Amparo Moscote with an 
expression of endless and unconditional gratitude and a silent promise of complicity unto death. 

The sudden friendship between Amparo Moscote and Rebeca Buendia awakened the hopes of 
Aureliano. The memory of little Remedios had not stopped tormenting him, but he had not found a 
chance to see her. When he would stroll through town with his closest friends, Magnifico Visbal and 
Gerineldo Marquez—the sons of the founders of the same names—he would look for her in the 
sewing shop with an anxious glance, but he saw only the older sisters. The presence of Amparo 
Moscote in the house was like a premonition. “She has to come with her,” Aureliano would say to 
himself in a low voice. “She has to come.” He repeated it so many times and with such conviction 
that one afternoon when he was putting together a little gold fish in the work shop, he had the 
certainty that she had answered his call. Indeed, a short time later he heard the childish voice, and 
when he looked up his heart froze with terror as he saw the girl at the door, dressed in pink organdy 
and wearing white boots. 

“You can’t go in there, Remedios, Amparo Moscote said from the hall. They’re working.” 

But Aureliano did not give her time to respond. He picked up the little fish by the chain that 
came through its mouth and said to her. 

“Come in.” 

Remedios went over and asked some questions about the fish that Aureliano could not answer 
because he was seized with a sudden attack of asthma. He wanted to stay beside that lily skin 
forever, beside those emerald eyes, close to that voice that called him “sir” with every question, 
showing the same respect that she gave her father. Melquiades was in the corner seated at the desk 
scribbling indecipherable signs. Aureliano hated him. All he could do was tell Remedios that he was 
going to give her the little fish and the girl was so startled by the offer that she left the workshop as 
fast as she could. That afternoon Aureliano lost the hidden patience with which he had waited for a 
chance to see her. He neglected his work. In several desperate efforts of concentration he willed her 
to appear but Remedios did not respond. He looked for her in her sisters’ shop, behind the window 
shades in her house, in her father’s office, but he found her only in the image that saturated his 
private and terrible solitude. He would spend whole hours with Rebeca in the parlor listening to the 
music on the pianola. She was listening to it because it was the music with which Pietro Crespi had 
taught them how to dance. Aureliano listened to it simply because everything, even music, reminded 
him of Remedios. 

The house became full of loves Aureliano expressed it in poetry that had no beginning or end. 
He would write it on the harsh pieces of parchment that Melquiades gave him, on the bathroom 
walls, on the skin of his arms, and in all of it Remedios would appear transfigured: Remedios in the 



soporific air of two in the afternoon, Remedios in the soft breath of the roses, Remedios in the 
water-clock secrets of the moths, Remedios in the steaming morning bread, Remedios everywhere 
and Remedios forever. Rebeca waited for her love at four in the afternoon, embroidering by the 
window. She knew that the mailman’s mule arrived only every two weeks, but she always waited for 
him, convinced that he was going to arrive on some other day by mistake. It happened quite the 
opposite: once the mule did not come on the usual day. Mad with desperation, Rebeca got up in the 
middle of the night and ate handfuls of earth in the garden with a suicidal drive, weeping with pain 
and fury, chewing tender earthworms and chipping her teeth on snail shells. She vomited until dawn. 
She fell into a state of feverish prostration, lost consciousness, and her heart went into a shameless 
delirium. Ursula, scandalized, forced the lock on her trunk and found at the bottom, tied together 
with pink ribbons, the sixteen perfumed letters and the skeletons of leaves and petals preserved in 
old books and the dried butterflies that turned to powder at the touch. 

Aureliano was the only one capable of understanding such desolation. That afternoon, while 
Ursula was trying to rescue Rebeca from the slough of delirium, he went with Magnifico Visbal and 
Gerineldo Marquez to Catarino’s store. The establishment had been expanded with a gallery of 
wooden rooms where single women who smelled of dead flowers lived. A group made up of an 
accordion and dmms played the songs of Francisco the Man, who had not been seen in Macondo 
for several years. The three friends drank fermented cane juice. Magnifico and Gerineldo, 
contemporaries of Aureliano but more skilled in the ways of the world, drank methodically with the 
women seated on their laps. One of the women, withered and with goldwork on her teeth, gave 
Aureliano a caress that made him shudder. He rejected her. He had discovered that the more he 
drank the more he thought about Remedios, but he could bear the torture of his recollections better. 
He did not know exactly when he began to float. He saw his friends and the women sailing in a 
radiant glow, without weight or mass, saying words that did not come out of their mouths and 
making mysterious signals that did not correspond to their expressions. Catarino put a hand on his 
shoulder and said to him: “It’s going on eleven.” Aureliano turned his head, saw the enormous 
disfigured face with a felt flower behind the ear, and then he lost his memory, as during the times of 
forgetfulness, and he recovered it on a strange dawn and in a room that was completely foreign, 
where Pilar Ternera stood in her slip, barefoot, her hair down, holding a lamp over him, starded 
with disbelief. 


Aureliano checked his feet and raised his head. He did not know how he had come there, but he 
knew what his aim was, because he had carried it hidden since infancy in an inviolable backwater of 
his heart. 

“I’ve come to sleep with you,” he said. 

His clothes were smeared with mud and vomit. Pilar Ternera, who lived alone at that time with 
her two younger children, did not ask him any quesdons. She took him to the bed. She cleaned his 
face with a damp cloth, took of his clothes, and then got completely undressed and lowered the 
mosquito netting so that her children would not see them if they woke up. She had become dred of 
waiting for the man who would stay, of the men who left, of the countless men who missed the road 
to her house, confused by the uncertainty of the cards. During the wait her skin had become 
wrinkled, her breasts had withered, the coals of her heart had gone out. She felt for Aureliano in the 
darkness, put her hand on his stomach and kissed him on the neck with a maternal tenderness. “My 
poor child,” she murmured. Aureliano shuddered. With a calm skill, without the slightest misstep, he 
left his accumulated grief behind and found Remedios changed into a swamp without horizons, 
smelling of a raw animal and recendy ironed clothes. When he came to the surface he was weeping. 
First they were involuntary and broken sobs. Then he emptied himself out in an unleashed flow, 
feeling that something swollen and painful had burst inside of him. She waited, snatching his head 



with the tips of her fingers, until his body got rid of the dark material that would not let him live. 
They Pilar Ternera asked him: “Who is it?” And Aureliano told her. She let out a laugh that in other 
times frightened the doves and that now did not even wake up the children. “You’ll have to raise her 
first,” she mocked, but underneath the mockery Aureliano found a reservoir of understanding. 
When he went out of the room, leaving behind not only his doubts about his virility but also the 
bitter weight that his heart had borne for so many months. Pilar Ternera made him a spontaneous 

“I’m going to talk to the girl,” she told him, “and you’ll see what I’ll serve her on the tray.” 

She kept her promise. But it was a bad moment, because the house had lost its peace of former 
days. When she discovered Rebeca’s passion, which was impossible to keep secret because of her 
shouts, Amaranta suffered an attack of fever. She also suffered from the barb of a lonely love. Shut 
up in the bathroom, she would release herself from the torment of a hopeless passion by writing 
feverish letters, which she finally hid in the bottom of her trunk. Ursula barely had the strength to 
take care of the two sick girls. She was unable, after prolonged and insidious interrogations, to 
ascertain the causes of Amaranta’s prostration. Finally, in another moment of inspiration, she forced 
the lock on the trunk and found the letters tied with a pink ribbon, swollen with fresh lilies and still 
wet with tears, addressed and never sent to Pietro Crespi. Weeping with rage, she cursed the day that 
it had occurred to her to buy the pianola, and she forbade the embroidery lessons and decreed a 
kind of mourning with no one dead which was to be prolonged until the daughters got over their 
hopes. Useless was the intervention of Jose Arcadio Buendia, who had modified his first impression 
of Pietro Crespi and admired his ability in the manipulation of musical machines. So that when Pilar 
Ternera told Aureliano that Remedios had decided on marriage, he could see that the news would 
only give his parents more trouble. Invited to the parlor for a formal interview, Jose Arcadio 
Buendia and Ursula listened stonily to their son’s declaration. When he learned the name of the 
fiancee, however, Jose Arcadio Buendia grew red with indignation. “Love is a disease,” he 
thundered. “With so many pretty and decent girls around, the only tiling that occurs to you is to get 
married to the daughter of our enemy.” But Ursula agreed with the choice. She confessed her 
affection for the seven Moscote sisters, for their beauty, their ability for work, their modesty, and 
their good manners, and she celebrated her son’s prudence. Conquered by his wife’s enthusiasm, 
Jose Arcadio Buendia then laid down one condition: Rebeca, who was the one he wanted, would 
marry Pietro Crespi. Ursula would take Amaranta on a trip to the capital of the province when she 
had time, so that contact with different people would alleviate her disappointment. Rebeca got her 
health back just as soon as she heard of the agreement, and she wrote her fiance a jubilant letter that 
she submitted to her parents’ approval and put into the mail without the use of any intermediaries. 
Amaranta pretended to accept the decision and little by little she recovered from her fevers, but she 
promised herself that Rebeca would marry only over her dead body. 

The following Saturday Jose Arcadio Buendia put on his dark suit, his celluloid collar, and the 
deerskin boots that he had worn for the first time the night of the party, and went to ask for the 
hand of Remedios Moscote. The magistrate and his wife received him, pleased and worried at the 
same time, for they did not know the reason for the unexpected visit, and then they thought that he 
was confused about the name of the intended bride. In order to remove the mistake, the mother 
woke Remedios up and carried her into the living room, still drowsy from sleep. They asked her if it 
was tme that she had decided to get married, and she answered, whimpering, that she only wanted 
them to let her sleep. Jose Arcadio Buendia, understanding the distress of the Moscotes, went to 
clear things up with Aureliano. When he returned, the Moscotes had put on formal clothing, had 
rearranged the furniture and put fresh flowers in the vases, and were waiting in the company of their 
older daughters. Overwhelmed by the unpleasantness of the occasion and the bothersome hard 
collar, Jose Arcadio Buendia confirmed the fact that Remedios, indeed, was the chosen one. “It 



doesn’t make sense,” Don Apolinar Moscote said with consternation. “We have six other daughters, 
all unmarried, and at an age where they deserve it, who would be delighted to be the honorable wife 
of a gentleman as serious and hard-working as your son, and Aurelito lays his eyes precisely on the 
one who still wets her bed.” His wife, a well-preserved woman with afflicted eyelids and expression, 
scolded his mistake. When they finished the fruit punch, they willingly accepted Aureliano’s 
decision. Except that Senora Moscote begged the favor of speaking to Ursula alone. Intrigued, 
protesting that they were involving her in men’s affairs, but really feeling deep emotion, Ursula went 
to visit her the next day. A half hour later she returned with the news that Remedios had not 
reached puberty. Aureliano did not consider that a serious barrier. He had waited so long that he 
could wait as long as was necessary until his bride reached the age of conception. 

The newfound harmony was interrupted by the death of Melquiades. Although it was a 
foreseeable event, the circumstances were not. A few months after his return, a process of aging had 
taken place in him that was so rapid and critical that soon he was treated as one of those useless 
great-grandfathers who wander about the bedrooms like shades, dragging their feet, remembering 
better times aloud, and whom no one bothers about or remembers really until the morning they find 
them dead in their bed. At first Jose Arcadio Buendfa helped him in his work, enthusiastic over the 
novelty of the daguerreotypes and the predictions of Nostradamus. But little by little he began 
abandoning him to his solitude, for communication was becoming Increasingly difficult. He was 
losing his sight and his hearing, he seemed to confuse the people he was speaking to with others he 
had known in remote epochs of mankind, and he would answer questions with a complex 
hodgepodge of languages. He would walk along groping in the air, although he passed between 
objects with an inexplicable fluidity, as if be were endowed with some instinct of direction based on 
an immediate prescience. One day he forgot to put in his false teeth, which at night he left in a glass 
of water beside his bed, and he never put them in again. When Ursula undertook the enlargement of 
the house, she had them build him a special room next to Aureliano’s workshop, far from the noise 
and bustle of the house, with a window flooded with light and a bookcase where she herself put in 
order the books that were almost destroyed by dust and moths, the flaky stacks of paper covered 
with indecipherable signs, and the glass with his false teeth, where some aquatic plants with tiny 
yellow flowers had taken root. The new place seemed to please Melquiades, because he was never 
seen any more, not even in the dining room, He only went to Aureliano’s workshop, where he 
would spend hours on end scribbling his enigmatic literature on the parchments that he had brought 
with him and that seemed to have been made out of some dry material that crumpled like puff paste. 
There he ate the meals that Visitacion brought him twice a day, although in the last days he lost his 
appetite and fed only on vegetables. He soon acquired the forlorn look that one sees in vegetarians. 
His skin became covered with a thin moss, similar to that which flourished on the antique vest that 
he never took off, and his breath exhaled the odor of a sleeping animal. Aureliano ended up forget¬ 
ting about him, absorbed in the composition of his poems, but on one occasion he thought he 
understood something of what Melquiades was saying in his groping monologues, and he paid 
attention. In reality, the only tiling that could be isolated in the rocky paragraphs was the insistent 
hammering on the word equinox, equinox, equinox , and the name of Alexander von Humboldt. 
Arcadio got a little closer to him when he began to help Aureliano in his silverwork. Melquiades 
answered that effort at communication at times by giving forth with phrases in Spanish that had very 
little to do with reality. One afternoon, however, he seemed to be illuminated by a sudden emotion. 
Years later, facing the firing squad, Arcadio would remember the trembling with which Melquiades 
made him listen to several pages of his impenetrable writing, which of course he did not understand, 
but which when read aloud were like encyclicals being chanted. Then he smiled for the first time in a 
long while and said in Spanish: “When I die, burn mercury in my room for three days.” Arcadio told 
that to Jose Arcadio Buendfa and the latter tried to get more explicit information, but he received 



only one answer: “I have found immortality.” When Melquiades’ breathing began to smell, Arcadio 
took him to bathe in the river on Thursday mornings. He seemed to get better. He would undress 
and get into the water with the boys, and his mysterious sense of orientation would allow him to 
avoid the deep and dangerous spots. “We come from the water,” he said on a certain occasion. 
Much time passed in that way without anyone’s seeing him in the house except on the night when 
he made a pathetic effort to fix the pianola, and when he would go to the river with Arcadio, 
carrying under his arm a gourd and a bar of palm oil soap wrapped in a towel. One Thursday before 
they called him to go to the river, Aureliano heard him say: “I have died of fever on the dunes of 
Singapore.” That day he went into the water at a bad spot and they did not find him until the 
following day, a few miles downstream, washed up on a bright bend in the river and with a solitary 
vulture sitting on his stomach. Over the scandalized protests of Ursula, who wept with more grief 
than she had had for her own father, Jose Arcadio Buendia was opposed to their burying him. “He 
is immortal,” he said, “and he himself revealed the formula of his resurrection.” He brought out the 
forgotten water pipe and put a kettle of mercury to boil next to the body, which little by little was 
filling with blue bubbles. Don Apolinar Moscote ventured to remind him that an unburied drowned 
man was a danger to public health. “None of that, because he’s alive,” was the answer of Jose 
Arcadio Buendia, who finished the seventy-two hours with the mercurial incense as the body was 
already beginning to burst with a livid fluorescence, the soft whistles of which impregnated the 
house with a pestilential vapor. Only then did he permit them to bury him, not in any ordinary way, 
but with the honors reserved for Macondo’s greatest benefactor. It was the first burial and the best- 
attended one that was ever seen in the town, only surpassed, a century later, by Big Mama’s funeral 
carnival. They buried him in a grave dug in the center of the plot destined for the cemetery, with a 
stone on which they wrote the only thing they knew about him: MELQUIADES. They gave him his 
nine nights of wake. In the tumult that gathered in the courtyard to drink coffee, tell jokes, and play 
cards. Amaranta found a chance to confess her love to Pietro Crespi, who a few weeks before had 
formalized his promise to Rebeca and had set up a store for musical instruments and mechanical 
toys in the same section where the Arabs had lingered in other times swapping knickknacks for 
macaws, and which the people called the Street of the Turks. The Italian, whose head covered with 
patent leather curls aroused in women an irrepressible need to sigh, dealt with Amaranta as with a 
capricious little girl who was not worth taking seriously. 

“I have a younger brother,” he told her. “He’s coming to help me in the store.” 

Amaranta felt humiliated and told Pietro Crespi with a virulent anger that she was prepared to 
stop her sister’s wedding even if her own dead body had to lie across the door. The Italian was so 
impressed by the dramatics of the threat that he could not resist the temptation to mention it to 
Rebeca. That was how Amaranta’s trip, always put off by Ursula’s work, was arranged in less than a 
week. Amaranta put up no resistance, but when she kissed Rebeca good-bye she whispered in her 

“Don’t get your hopes up. Even if they send me to the ends of the earth I’ll find some way of 
stopping you from getting married, even if I have to kill you.” 

With the absence of Ursula, with the invisible presence of Melquiades, who continued his stealthy 
shuffling through the rooms, the house seemed enormous and empty. Rebeca took charge of 
domestic order, while the Indian woman took care of the bakery. At dusk, when Pietro Crespi would 
arrive, preceded by a cool breath of lavender and always bringing a toy as a gift, his fiancee would 
receive the visitor in the main parlor with doors and windows open to be safe from any suspicion. It 
was an unnecessary precaution, for the Italian had shown himself to be so respectful that he did not 
even touch the hand of the woman who was going to be his wife within the year. Those visits were 
filling the house with remarkable toys. Mechanical ballerinas, music boxes, acrobatic monkeys, 
trotting horses, clowns who played the tambourine: the rich and startling mechanical fauna that 



Pietro Crespi brought dissipated Jose Arcadio Buendia’s affliction over the death of Melquiades and 
carried him back to his old days as an alchemist. He lived at that time in a paradise of disemboweled 
animals, of mechanisms that had been taken apart in an attempt to perfect them with a system of 
perpetual motion based upon the principles of the pendulum. Aureliano, for his part, had neglected 
the workshop in order to teach little Remedios to read and write. At first the child preferred her 
dolls to the man who would come every afternoon and who was responsible for her being separated 
from her toys in order to be bathed and dressed and seated in the parlor to receive the visitor. But 
Aureliano’s patience and devotion finally won her over, up to the point where she would spend 
many hours with him studying the meaning of the letters and sketching in a notebook with colored 
pencils little houses with cows in the corral and round suns with yellow rays that hid behind the hills. 

Only Rebeca was unhappy, because of Amaranta’s threat. She knew her sister’s character, the 
haughtiness of her spirit, and she was frightened by the virulence of her anger. She would spend 
whole hours sucking her finger in the bathroom, holding herself back with an exhausting iron will so 
as not to eat earth. In search of some relief for her uncertainty, she called Pilar Ternera to read her 
future. After a string of conventional vagaries, Pilar Ternera predicted: 

“You will not be happy as long as your parents remain unburied.” 

Rebeca shuddered. As in the memory of a dream she saw herself entering the house as a very 
small girl, with the trunk and the little rocker, and a bag whose contents she had never known. She 
remembered a bald gentleman dressed in linen and with his collar closed by a gold button, who had 
nothing to do with the king of hearts. She remembered a very young and beautiful woman with 
warm and perfumed hands, who had nothing in common with the jack of diamonds and Inis 
rheumatic hands, and who used to put flowers in her hair and take her out walking in the afternoon 
through a town with green streets. 

“I don’t understand,” she said. 

Pilar Ternera seemed disconcerted: 

“I don’t either, but that’s what the cards say.” 

Rebeca was so preoccupied with the enigma that she told it to Jose Arcadio Buendia, and he 
scolded her for believing in the predictions of the cards, but he undertook the silent task of 
searching closets and trunks, moving furniture and turning over beds and floorboards looking for 
the bag of bones. He remembered that he had not seen it since the time of the rebuilding. He 
secretly summoned the masons and one of them revealed that he had walled up the bag in some 
bedroom because it bothered him in his work. After several days of listening, with their ears against 
the walls, they perceived the deep cloc-cloc. They penetrated the wall and there were the bones in the 
intact bag. They buried it the same day in a grave without a stone next to that of Melquiades, and 
Jose Arcadio Buendia returned home free of a burden that for a moment had weighed on his 
conscience as much as the memory of Prudencio Aguilar. When he went through the kitchen he 
kissed Rebeca on the forehead. 

“Get those bad thoughts out of your head,” he told her. “You’re going to be happy.” 

The friendship with Rebeca opened up to Pilar Ternera the doors of the house, closed by Ursula 
since the birth of Arcadio. She would arrive at any hour of the day, like a flock of goats, and would 
unleash her feverish energy in the hardest tasks. Sometimes she would go into the workshop and 
help Arcadio sensitize the daguerreotype plates with an efficiency and a tenderness that ended up by 
confusing him. That woman bothered him. The tan of her skin, her smell of smoke, the disorder of 
her laughter in the darkroom distracted his attention and made him bump into things. 

On a certain occasion Aureliano was there working on his silver, and Pilar Ternera leaned over 
the table to admire his laborious patience. Suddenly it happened. Aureliano made sure that Arcadio 
was in the darkroom before raising his eyes and meeting those of Pilar Ternera, whose thought was 
perfectly visible, as if exposed to the light of noon. 



“Well,” Aureliano said. “Tell me what it is.” 

Pilar Ternera bit her lips with a sad smile. 

“That you’d be good in a war,” she said. “Where you put your eye, you put your bullet.” 

Aureliano relaxed with the proof of the omen. He went back to concentrate on his work as if 
nothing had happened, and his voice took on a restful strength. 

“I will recognize him,” he said. “He’ll bear my name.” 

Jose Arcadio Buendia finally got what he was looking for: he connected the mechanism of the 
clock to a mechanical ballerina, and the toy danced uninterruptedly to the rhythm of her own music 
for three days. That discovery excited him much more than any of his other harebrained 
undertakings. He stopped eating. He stopped sleeping. Only the vigilance and care of Rebeca kept 
him from being dragged off by his imagination into a state of perpetual delirium from which he 
would not recover. He would spend the nights walking around the room thinking aloud, searching 
for a way to apply the principles of the pendulum to oxcarts, to harrows, to everything that was 
useful when put into motion. The fever of insomnia fatigued him so much that one dawn he could 
not recognize the old man with white hair and uncertain gestures who came into his bedroom. It 
was Prudencio Aguilar. When he finally identified him, startled that the dead also aged, Jose Arcadio 
Buendia felt himself shaken by nostalgia. “Prudencio,” he exclaimed. “You’ve come from a long way 
off!” After many years of death the yearning for the living was so intense, the need for company so 
pressing, so terrifying the neatness of that other death which exists within death, that Pmdencio 
Aguilar had ended up loving his worst enemy. He had spent a great deal of time looking for him. He 
asked the dead from Riohacha about him, the dead who came from the Upar Valley, those who 
came from the swamp, and no one could tell him because Macondo was a town that was unknown 
to the dead until Melqufades arrived and marked it with a small black dot on the motley maps of 
death. Jose Arcadio Buendia conversed with Prudencio Aguilar until dawn. A few hours later, worn 
out by the vigil, he went into Aureliano’s workshop and asked him: “What day is today?” Aureliano 
told him that it was Tuesday. “I was thinking the same thing,” Jose Arcadio Buendia said, “but 
suddenly I realized that it’s still Monday, like yesterday. Look at the sky, look at the walls, look at the 
begonias. Today is Monday too.” Used to his manias, Aureliano paid no attention to him. On the 
next day, Wednesday, Jose Arcadio Buendia went back to the workshop. “This is a disaster,” he said. 
“Look at the air, listen to the buzzing of the sun, the same as yesterday and the day before. Today is 
Monday too.” That night Pietro Crespi found him on the porch, weeping for Prudencio Aguilar, for 
Melqufades, for Rebeca’s parents, for his mother and father, for all of those he could remember and 
who were now alone in death. He gave him a mechanical bear that walked on its hind legs on a 
tightrope, but he could not distract him from his obsession. He asked him what had happened to 
the project he had explained to him a few days before about the possibility of building a pendulum 
machine that would help men to fly and he answered that it was impossible because a pendulum 
could lift anything into the air but it could not lift itself. On Thursday he appeared in the workshop 
again with the painful look of plowed ground. “The time machine has broken,” he almost sobbed, 
“and Ursula and Amaranta so far away!” Aureliano scolded him like a child and he adopted a 
contrite air. He spent six hours examining things, trying to find a difference from their appearance 
on the previous day in the hope of discovering in them some change that would reveal the passage 
of time. He spent the whole night in bed with his eyes open, calling to Prudencio Aguilar, to 
Melquiades, to all the dead, so that they would share his distress. But no one came. On Friday, 
before anyone arose, he watched the appearance of nature again until he did not have the slightest 
doubt but that it was Monday. Then he grabbed the bar from a door and with the savage violence of 
his uncommon strength he smashed to dust the equipment in the alchemy laboratory, the 
daguerreotype room, the silver workshop, shouting like a man possessed in some high-sounding and 
fluent but completely incomprehensible language. He was about to finish off the rest of the house 



when Aureliano asked the neighbors for help. Ten men were needed to get him down, fourteen to 
tie him up, twenty to drag him to the chestnut tree in the courtyard, where they left him tied up, 
barking in the strange language and giving off a green froth at the mouth. When Ursula and 
Amaranta returned he was still tied to the tmnk of the chestnut tree by his hands and feet, soaked 
with rain and in a state of total innocence. They spoke to him and he looked at them without 
recognizing them, saying things they did not understand. Ursula untied his wrists and ankles, lacer¬ 
ated by the pressure of the rope, and left him tied only by the waist. Later on they built him a shelter 
of palm brandies to protect him from the sun and the rain. 



Chapter 5 

AURELIANO BUENDIA and Remedios Moscote were married one Sunday in March before the altar 
Father Nicanor Reyna had set up in the parlor. It was the culmination of four weeks of shocks in the 
Moscote household because little Remedios had reached puberty before getting over the habits of 
childhood. In spite of the fact that her mother had taught her about the changes of adolescence, one 
February afternoon she burst shouting into the living room, where her sisters were chatting with 
Aureliano, and showed them her panties, smeared with a chocolate-colored paste. A month for the 
wedding was agreed upon. There was barely enough time to teach her how to wash herself, get 
dressed by herself, and understand the fundamental business of a home. They made her urinate over 
hot bricks in order to cure her of the habit of wetting her bed. It took a good deal of work to 
convince her of the inviolability of the marital secret, for Remedios was so confused and at the same 
time so amazed at the revelation that she wanted to talk to everybody about the details of the 
wedding night. It was a fatiguing effort, but on the date set for the ceremony the child was as adept 
in the ways of the world as any of her sisters. Don Apolinar Moscote escorted her by the arm down 
the street that was decorated with flowers and wreaths amidst the explosion of rockets and the 
music of several bands, and she waved with her hand and gave her thanks with a smile to those who 
wished her good luck from the windows. Aureliano, dressed in black, wearing the same patent 
leather boots with metal fasteners that he would have on a few years later as he faced the firing 
squad, had an intense paleness and a hard lump in his throat when he met the bride at the door of 
the house and led her to the altar. She behaved as naturally, with such discretion, that she did not 
lose her composure, not even when Aureliano dropped the ring as he tried to put it on her finger. In 
the midst of the. murmurs and confusion of the guests, she kept her arm with the fingerless lace 
glove held up and remained like that with her ring finger ready until the bridegroom managed to 
stop the ring with his foot before it rolled to the door, and came back blushing to the altar. Her 
mother and sisters suffered so much from the fear that the child would do something wrong during 
the ceremony that in the end they were the ones who committed the impertinence of picking her up 
to kiss her. From that day on the sense of responsibility, the natural grace, the calm control that 
Remedios would have in the face of adverse circumstances was revealed. It was she who, on her 
own initiative, put aside the largest piece that she had cut from the wedding cake and took it on a 
plate with a fork to Jose Arcadio Buendfa. Tied to the tmnk of the chestnut tree, huddled on a 
wooden stool underneath the palm shelter, the enormous old man, discolored by the sun and rain, 
made a vague smile of gratitude and at the piece of cake with his fingers, mumbling an unintelligible 
psalm. The only unhappy person in that noisy celebration, which lasted until dawn on Monday, was 
Rebeca Buendfa. It was her own frustrated party. By an arrangement of Ursula’s, her marriage was to 
be celebrated on the same day, but that Friday Pietro Crespi received a letter with the news of his 
mother’s imminent death. The wedding was postponed. Pietro Crespi left for the capital of the 
province an hour after receiving the letter, and on the road he missed his mother, who arrived 
punctually Saturday night and at Aureliano’s wedding sang the sad aria that she had prepared for the 
wedding of her son. Pietro Crespi returned on Sunday midnight to sweep up the ashes of the party, 
after having worn out five horses on the road in an attempt to be in time for his wedding. It was 
never discovered who wrote the letter. Tormented by Ursula, Amaranta wept with indignation and 
swore her innocence in front of the altar, which the carpenters had not finished dismantling. 

Father Nicanor Reyna—whom Don Apolinar Moscote had brought from the swamp to officiate 
at the wedding—was an old man hardened by the ingratitude of his ministry. His skin was sad, with 
the bones almost exposed, and he had a pronounced round stomach and the expression of an old 



angel, which came more from, simplicity than from goodness. He had planned to return to his 
pariah after the wedding, but he was appalled at the hardness of the inhabitants of Macondo, who 
were prospering in the midst of scandal, subject to the natural law, without baptizing their children 
or sanctifying their festivals. Thinking that no land needed the seed of God so much, he decided to 
stay on for another week to Christianize both circumcised and gentile, legalize concubinage, and give 
the sacraments to the dying. But no one paid any attention to him. They would answer him that they 
had been many years without a priest, arranging the business of their souls directly with God, and 
that they had lost the evil of original sin. Tired of preaching in the open, Father Nicanor decided to 
undertake the building of a church, the largest in the world, with life-size saints and stained-glass 
windows on the sides, so that people would come from Rome to honor God in the center of 
impiety. He went everywhere begging alms with a copper dish. They gave him a large amount, but 
he wanted more, because the church had to have a bell that would raise the drowned up to the 
surface of the water. He pleaded so much that he lost his voice. His bones began to fill with sounds. 
One Saturday, not even having collected the price of the doors, he fell into a desperate confusion. 
He improvised an altar in the square and on Sunday he went through the town with a small bell, as 
in the days of insomnia, calling people to an open-air mass. Many went out of curiosity. Others from 
nostalgia. Others so that God would not take the disdain for His intermediary as a personal insult. 
So that at eight in the morning half the town was in the square, where Father Nicanor chanted the 
gospels in a voice that had been lacerated by his pleading. At the end, when the congregation began 
to break up, he raised his arms signaling for attention. 

“Just a moment,” he said. “Now we shall witness an undeniable proof of the infinite power of 

The boy who had helped him with the mass brought him a cup of thick and steaming chocolate, 
which he drank without pausing to breathe. Then he wiped his lips with a handkerchief that he drew 
from his sleeve, extended his arms, and closed his eyes. Thereupon Father Nicanor rose six inches 
above the level of the ground. It was a convincing measure. He went among the houses for several 
days repeating the demonstration of levitation by means of chocolate while the acolyte collected so 
much money in a bag that in less than a month he began the construction of the church. No one 
doubted the divine origin of the demonstration except Jose Arcadio Buendfa, who without changing 
expression watched the troop of people who gathered around the chestnut tree one morning to 
witness the revelation once more. He merely stretched on his stool a little and shrugged his 
shoulders when Father Nicanor began to rise up from the ground along with the chair he was sitting 

“Hoc est simplicissimus. ,” Jose Arcadio Buendia said. “Homo iste statum quartum materiae invent.” 

Father Nicanor raised his hands and the four legs of the chair all landed on the ground at the 
same time. “ Nego ,” he said. “Factum hoc existentiam Dei prohat sine dubio.” 

Thus it was discovered that Jose Arcadio Buendfa’s devilish jargon was Latin. Father Nicanor 
took advantage of the circumstance of his being the only person who had been able to communicate 
with him to try to inject the faith into his twisted mind. Every afternoon he would sit by the 
chestnut tree preaching in Latin, but Jose Arcadio Buendfa insisted on rejecting rhetorical tricks and 
the transmutation of chocolate, and he demanded the daguerreotype of God as the only proof. 
Father Nicanor then brought him medals and pictures and even a reproduction of the Veronica, but 
Jose Arcadio Buendfa rejected them as artistic objects without any scientific basis. He was so 
stubborn that Father Nicanor gave up his attempts at evangelization and continued visiting him out 
of humanitarian feelings. But then it was Jose Arcadio Buendia who took the lead and tried to break 
down the priest’s faith with rationalist tricks. On a certain occasion when Father Nicanor brought a 
checker set to the chestnut tree and invited him to a game, Jose Arcadio Buendia would not accept, 
because according to him he could never understand the sense of a contest in which the two 



adversaries have agreed upon the rules. Father Nicanor, who had never seen checkers played that 
way, could not play it again. Ever more startled at Jose Arcadio Buendia’s lucidity, he asked him how 
it was possible that they had him tied to a tree. 

“Hoc est simplicissimus” he replied. “Because I’m Crazy.” 

From then on, concerned about his own faith, the priest did not come back to visit him and 
dedicated himself to hurrying along the building of the church. Rebeca felt her hopes being reborn. 
Her future was predicated on the completion of the work, for one Sunday when Father Nicanor was 
lunching at the house and the whole family sitting at the table spoke of the solemnity and splendor 
that religious ceremonies would acquire when the church was built, Amaranta said: “The luckiest 
one will be Rebeca.” And since Rebeca did not understand what she meant, she explained it to her 
with an innocent smile: 

“You’re going to be the one who will inaugurate the church with your wedding.” 

Rebeca tried to forestall any comments. The way the construction was going the church would 
not be built before another ten years. Father Nicanor did not agree: the growing generosity of the 
faithful permitted him to make more optimistic calculations. To the mute Indignation of Rebeca, 
who could not finish her lunch, Ursula celebrated Amaranta’s idea and contributed a considerable 
sum for the work to move faster. Father Nicanor felt that with another contribution like that the 
church would be ready within three years. From then on Rebeca did not say another word to 
Amaranta, convinced that her initiative had not the innocence that she attempted to give it. “That 
was the least serious thing I could have done,” Amaranta answered her during the violent argument 
they had that night. “In that way I won’t have to kill you for three years.” Rebeca accepted the 

When Pietro Crespi found out about the new postponement, he went through a crisis of 
disappointment, but Rebeca gave him a final proof of her loyalty. “We’ll elope whenever you say,” 
she told him. Pietro Crespi, however, was not a man of adventure. He lacked the impulsive character 
of his fiancee and he considered respect for one’s given word as a wealth that should not be 
squandered. Then Rebeca turned to more audacious methods. A mysterious wind blew out the 
lamps in the parlor and Ursula surprised the lovers kissing in the dark. Pietro Crespi gave her some 
confused explanations about the poor quality of modern pitch lamps and he even helped her install a 
more secure system of illumination for the room. But the fuel failed again or the wicks became 
clogged and Ursula found Rebeca sitting on her fiance’s lap. This time she would accept no 
explanation. She turned the responsibility of the bakery over to the Indian woman and sat in a 
rocking chair to watch over the young people during the visits, ready to win out over maneuvers that 
had already been old when she was a girl. “Poor Mama,” Rebeca would say with mock indignation, 
seeing Ursula yawn during the boredom of the visits. “When she dies she’ll go off to her reward in 
that rocking chair.” After three months of supervised love, fatigued by the slow progress of the 
construction, which he went to inspect every day, Pietro Crespi decided to give Father Nicanor the 
money he needed to finish the church. Amaranta did not grow impatient. As she conversed with her 
girl friends every afternoon when they came to embroider on the porch, she tried to think of new 
subterfuges. A mistake in calculation spoiled the one she considered the most effective: removing 
the mothballs that Rebeca had put in her wedding dress before she put it away in the bedroom 
dresser. She did it when two months were left for the completion of the church. But Rebeca was so 
impatient with the approach of the wedding that she wanted to get the dress ready earlier than 
Amaranta had foreseen. When she opened the dresser and unfolded first the papers and then the 
protective cloth, she found the fabric of the dress and the stitches of the veil and even the crown of 
orange blossoms perforated by moths. Although she was sure that she had put a handful of 
mothballs in the wrappings, the disaster seemed so natural that she did not dare blame Amaranta. 
There was less than a month until the wedding, but Amparo Moscote promised to sew a new dress 



within a week. Amaranta felt faint that rainy noontime when Amparo came to the house wrapped in 
the froth of needlework for Rebeca to have the final fitting of the dress. She lost her voice and a 
thread of cold sweat ran down the path of her spine. For long months she had trembled with fright 
waiting for that hour, because if she had not been able to conceive the ultimate obstacle to Rebeca’s 
wedding, she was sure that at the last moment, when all the resources of her imagination had failed, 
she would have the courage to poison her. That afternoon, while Rebeca was suffocating with heat 
inside the armor of thread that Amparo Moscote was putting about her body with thousands of pins 
and infinite patience, Amaranta made several mistakes in her crocheting and pricked her finger with 
the needle, but she decided with frightful coldness that the date would be the last Friday before the 
wedding and the method would be a dose of laudanum in her coffee. 

A greater obstacle, as impassable as it was unforeseen, obliged a new and indefinite 
postponement. One week before the date set for the wedding, little Remedios woke up in the middle 
of the night soaked in a hot broth which had exploded in her insides with a kind of tearing belch, 
and she died three days later, poisoned by her own blood, with a pair of twins crossed in her 
stomach. Amarante suffered a crisis of conscience. She had begged God with such fervor for 
something fearful to happen so that she would not have to poison Rebeca that she felt guilty of 
Remedios’ death. That was not the obstacle that she had begged for so much. Remedios had 
brought a breath of merriment to the house. She had settled down with her husband in a room near 
the workshop, which she decorated with the dolls and toys of her recent childhood, and her merry 
vitality overflowed the four walls of the bedroom and went like a whirlwind of good health along the 
porch with the begonias: She would start singing at dawn. She was the only person who dared 
intervene in the arguments between Rebeca and Amaranta. She plunged into the fatiguing chore of 
taking care of Jose Arcadio Buendfa. She would bring him his food, she would help him with Iris 
daily necessities, wash him with soap and a scrubbing brush, keep his hair and beard free of lice and 
nits, keep the palm shelter in good condition and reinforce it with waterproof canvas in stormy 
weather. In her last months she had succeeded in communicating with him in phrases of 
rudimentary Latin. When the son of Aureliano and Pilar Ternera was born and brought to the house 
and baptized in an intimate ceremony with the name Aureliano Jose, Remedios decided that he 
would be considered their oldest child. Her maternal instinct surprised Ursula. Aureliano, for his 
part, found in her the justification that he needed to live. He worked all day in his workshop and 
Remedios would bring him a cup of black coffee in the middle of the morning. They would both 
visit the Moscotes every night. Aureliano would play endless games of dominoes with his father-in- 
law while Remedios chatted with her sisters or talked to her mother about more important things. 
The link with the Buendfas consolidated Don Apolinar Moscote’s authority in the town. On 
frequent trips to the capital of the province he succeeded in getting the government to build a 
school so that Arcadio, who had inherited the educational enthusiasm of his grandfather, could take 
charge of it. Through persuasion he managed to get the majority of houses painted blue in time for 
the date of national independence. At the urging of Father Nicanor, he arranged for the transfer of 
Catarino’s store to a back street and he closed down several scandalous establishments that 
prospered in the center of town. Once he returned with six policemen armed with rifles to whom he 
entrusted the maintenance of order, and no one remembered the original agreement not to have 
armed men in the town. Aureliano enjoyed his father-in-law’s efficiency. “You’re going to get as fat 
as he is,” his friends would say to him. But his sedentary life, which accentuated his cheekbones and 
concentrated the sparkle of his eyes, did not increase his weight or alter the parsimony of his 
character, but, on the contrary, it hardened on his lips the straight line of solitary meditation and 
implacable decision. So deep was the affection that he and his wife had succeeded in arousing in 
both their families that when Remedios announced that she was going to have a child, even Rebeca 
and Amaranta declared a tmce in order to knit items in blue wool if it was to be a boy and in pink 



wool in case it was a girl. She was the last person Arcadio thought about a few years later when he 
faced the firing squad. 

Ursula ordered a mourning period of closed doors and windows, with no one entering or leaving 
except on matters of utmost necessity. She prohibited any talking aloud for a year and she put 
Remedios’ daguerreotype in the place where her body had been laid out, with a black ribbon around 
it and an oil lamp that was always kept lighted. Future generations, who never let the lamp go out, 
would be puzzled at that girl in a pleated skirt, white boots, and with an organdy band around her 
head, and they were never able to connect her with the standard image of a great-grandmother. 
Amaranta took charge of Aureliano Jose. She adopted him as a son who would share her solitude 
and relieve her from the involutary laudanum that her mad beseeching had thrown into Remedios’ 
coffee. Pietro Crespi would tiptoe in at dusk, with a black ribbon on his hat, and he would pay a 
silent visit to Rebeca, who seemed to be bleeding to death inside the black dress with sleeves down 
to her wrists. Just the idea of thinking about a new date for the wedding would have been so 
irreverent that the engagement turned into an eternal relationship, a fatigued love that no one 
worried about again, as if the lovers, who in other days had sabotaged the lamps in order to kiss, had 
been abandoned to the free will of death. Having lost her bearings, completely demoralized, Rebeca 
began eating earth again. 

Suddenly—when the mourning had gone on so long that the needlepoint sessions began again— 
someone pushed open the street door at two in the afternoon in the mortal silence of the heat and 
the braces in the foundation shook with such force that Amaranta and her friends sewing on the 
porch, Rebeca sucking her finger in her bedroom, Ursula in the kitchen, Aureliano in the workshop, 
and even Jose Arcadio Buendfa under the solitary chestnut tree had the impression that an 
earthquake was breaking up the house. A huge man had arrived. His square shoulders barely fitted 
through the doorways. He was wearing a medal of Our Lady of Help around his bison neck, his 
arms and chest were completely covered with cryptic tattooing, and on his right wrist was the tight 
copper bracelet of the ninos-en-cru ^ amulet. His skin was tanned by the salt of the open air, his hair 
was short and straight like the mane of a mule, his jaws were of iron, and he wore a sad smile. He 
had a belt on that was twice as thick as the cinch of a horse, boots with leggings and spurs and iron 
on the heels, and his presence gave the quaking impression of a seismic tremor. He went through 
the parlor and the living room, carrying some half-worn saddlebags in his hand, and he appeared like 
a thunderclap on the porch with the begonias where Amaranta and her friends were paralyzed, their 
needles in the air. “Hello,” he said to them in a tired voice, threw the saddlebags on a worktable, and 
went by on his way to the back of the house. “Hello,” he said to the startled Rebecca, who saw him 
pass by the door of her bedroom. “Hello,” he said to Aureliano, who was at his silversmith’s bench 
with all five senses alert. He did not linger with anyone. He went directly to the kitchen and there he 
stopped for the first time at the end of a trip that had begun of the other side of the world. “Hello,” 
he said. Ursula stood for a fraction of a second with her mouth open, looked into his eyes, gave a 
cry, and flung her arms around his neck, shouting and weeping with joy. It was Jose Arcadio. He was 
returning as poor as when he had left, to such an extreme that Ursula had to give him two pesos to 
pay for the rental of his horse. He spoke a Spanish that was larded with sailor slang. They asked 
where he had been and he answered: “Out there.” He hung his hammock in the room they assigned 
him and slept for three days. When he woke up, after eating sixteen raw eggs, he went directly to 
Catarino’s store, where his monumental size provoked a panic of curiosity among the women. He 
called for music and cane liquor for everyone, to be put on his bill. He would Indian-wrestle with 
five men at the same time. “It can’t be done,” they said, convinced that they would not be able to 
move his arm. “He has ninos-en-cru Catarino, who did not believe in magical tricks of strength, bet 
him twelve pesos that he could not move the counter. Jose Arcadio pulled it out of its place, lifted it 
over his head, and put it in the street. It took eleven men to put it back. In the heat of the party he 



exhibited his unusual masculinity on the bar, completely covered with tattoos of words in several 
languages intertwined in blue and red. To the women who were besieging him and coveting him he 
put the question as to who would pay the most. The one who had the most money offered him 
twenty pesos. Then he proposed raffling himself off among them at ten pesos a chance. It was a 
fantastic price because the most sought-after woman earned eight pesos a night, but they all 
accepted. They wrote their names on fourteen pieces of paper which they put into a hat and each 
woman took one out. When there were only two pieces left to draw, it was established to whom they 

“Five pesos more from each one,” Jose Arcadio proposed, “and I’ll share myself with both. 

He made his living that way. He had been around the world sixty-five times, enlisted in a crew of 
sailors without a country. The women who went to bed with him that night in Catarino’s store 
brought him naked into the dance salon so that people could see that there was not a square inch of 
his body that was not tattooed, front and back, and from his neck to his toes. He did not succeed in 
becoming incorporated into the family. He slept all day and spent the night in the red-light district, 
making bets on his strength. On the rare occasions when Ursula got him to sit down at the table, he 
gave signs of radiant good humor, especially when he told about his adventures in remote countries. 
He had been shipwrecked and spent two weeks adrift in the Sea of Japan, feeding on the body of a 
comrade who had succumbed to sunstroke and whose extremely salty flesh as it cooked in the sun 
had a sweet and granular taste. Under a bright noonday sun in the Gulf of Bengal his ship had lulled 
a sea dragon, in the stomach of which they found the helmet, the buckles, and the weapons of a 
Crusader. In the Caribbean he had seen the ghost of the pirate ship of Victor Hugues, with its sails 
torn by the winds of death, the masts chewed by sea worms, and still looking for the course to 
Guadeloupe. Ursula would weep at the table as if she were reading the letters that had never arrived 
and in which Jose Arcadio told about his deeds and misadventures. “And there was so much of a 
home here for you, my son,” she would sob, “and so much food thrown to the hogs!” But 
underneath it an she could not conceive that the boy the gypsies took away was the same lout who 
would eat half a suckling pig for lunch and whose flatulence withered the flowers. Something similar 
took place with the rest of the family. Amaranta could not conceal the repugnance that she felt at 
the table because of his bestial belching. Arcadio, who never knew the secret of their relationship, 
scarcely answered the questions that he asked with the obvious idea of gaining his affection. 
Aureliano tried to relive the times when they slept in the same room, tried to revive the complicity 
of childhood, but Jose Arcadio had forgotten about it, because life at sea had saturated his memory 
with too many things to remember. Only Rebeca succumbed to the first impact. The day that she 
saw him pass by her bedroom she thought that Pietro Crespi was a sugary dandy next to that 
protomale whose volcanic breathing could be heard all over the house. She tried to get near him 
under any pretext. On a certain occasion Jose Arcadio looked at her body with shameless attention 
and said to her “You’re a woman, little sister.” Rebeca lost control of herself. She went back to 
eating earth and the whitewash on the walls with the avidity of previous days, and she sucked her 
finger with so much anxiety that she developed a callus on her thumb. She vomited up a green liquid 
with dead leeches in it. She spent nights awake shaking with fever, fighting against delirium, waiting 
until the house shook with the return of Jose Arcadio at dawn. One afternoon, when everyone was 
having a siesta, she could no longer resist and went to his bedroom. She found him in his shorts, 
lying in the hammock that he had hung from the beams with a ship’s hawser. She was so impressed 
by his enormous motley nakedness that she felt an impulse to retreat. “Excuse me,” she said, “I 
didn’t know you were here.” But she lowered her voice so as not to wake anyone up. “Come here,” 
he said. Rebeca obeyed. She stopped beside the hammock in an icy sweat, feeling knots forming in 
her intestines, while Jose Arcadio stroked her ankles with the tips of his fingers, then her calves, then 
her thighs, murmuring: “Oh, little sister, little sister.” She had to make a supernatural effort not to 



die when a startlingly regulated cyclonic power lifted her up by the waist and despoiled her of her 
intimacy with three clashes of its claws and quartered her like a little bird. She managed to thank 
God for having been born before she lost herself in the inconceivable pleasure of that unbearable 
pain, splashing in the steaming marsh of the hammock which absorbed the explosion of blood like a 

Three days later they were married during the five-o’clock mass. Jose Arcadio had gone to Pietro 
Crespi’s store the day before. He found him giving a zither lesson and did not draw him aside to 
speak to him. “I’m going to marry Rebeca,” he told him. Pietro Crespi turned pale, gave the zither to 
one of his pupils, and dismissed the class. When they were alone in the room that was crowded with 
musical instruments and mechanical toys, Pietro Crespi said: 

“She’s your sister.” 

“I don’t care,” Jose Arcadio replied. 

Pietro Crespi mopped his brow with the handkerchief that was soaked in lavender. 

“It’s against nature,” he explained, “and besides, it’s against the law.” 

Jose Arcadio grew impatient, not so much at the argument as over Pietro Crespi’s paleness. 

“Fuck nature two times over,” he said. “And I’ve come to tell you not to bother going to ask 
Rebeca anything.” 

But his brutal deportment broke down when he saw Pietro Crespi’s eyes grow moist. 

“Now,” he said to him in a different tone, “if you really like the family, there’s Amaranta for 

„ ?? 

Father Nicanor revealed in his Sunday sermon that Jose Arcadio and Rebeca were not brother 
and sister. Ursula never forgave what she considered an inconceivable lack of respect and when they 
came back from church she forbade the newlyweds to set foot in the house again. For her it was as 
if they were dead. So they rented a house across from the cemetery and established themselves there 
with no other furniture but Jose Arcadio’s hammock. On their wedding night a scorpion that had 
got into her slipper bit Rebeca on the foot. Her tongue went to sleep, but that did not stop them 
from spending a scandalous honeymoon. The neighbors were startled by the cries that woke up the 
whole district as many as eight times in a single night and three times during siesta, and they prayed 
that such wild passion would not disturb the peace of the dead. 

Aureliano was the only one who was concerned about them. He bought them some furniture and 
gave them some money until Jose Arcadio recovered his sense of reality and began to work the no- 
man’s-land that bordered the courtyard of the house. Amaranta, on the other hand, never did 
overcome her rancor against Rebeca, even though life offered her a satisfaction of which she had 
not dreamed: at the initiative of Ursula, who did not know how to repair the shame, Pietro Crespi 
continued having lunch at the house on Tuesdays, rising above his defeat with a serene dignity. He 
still wore the black ribbon on his hat as a sign of respect for the family, and he took pleasure in 
showing his affection for Ursula by bringing her exotic gifts: Portuguese sardines, Turkish rose 
marmalade, and on one occasion a lovely Manila shawl. Amaranta looked after him with a loving 
diligence. She anticipated his wants, pulled out the threads on the cuffs of his shirt, and embroidered 
a dozen handkerchiefs with his initials for his birthday. On Tuesdays, after lunch, while she would 
embroider on the porch, he would keep her happy company. For Pietro Crespi, that woman whom 
he always had considered and treated as a child was a revelation. Although her temperament lacked 
grace, she had a rare sensibility for appreciating the tilings of the world and had a secret tenderness. 
One Tuesday, when no one doubted that sooner or later it had to happen, Pietro Crespi asked her to 
marry him. She did not stop her work. She waited for the hot blush to leave her ears and gave her 
voice a serene stress of maturity. 

“Of course, Crespi,” she said. “But when we know each other better. It’s never good to be hasty 
in things.” 



Ursula was confused. In spite of the esteem she had for Pietro Crespi, she could not tell whether 
his decision was good or bad from the moral point of view after his prolonged and famous 
engagement to Rebeca. But she finally accepted it as an unqualified fact because no one shared her 
doubts. Aureliano, who was the man of the house, confused her further with his enigmatic and final 

“These are not times to go around thinking about weddings.” 

That opinion, which Ursula understood only some months later, was the only sincere one that 
Aureliano could express at that moment, not only with respect to marriage, but to anything that was 
not war. He himself, facing a firing squad, would not understand too well the concatenation of the 
series of subtle but irrevocable accidents that brought him to that point. The death of Remedios had 
not produced the despair that he had feared. It was, rather, a dull feeling of rage that grades ally 
dissolved in a solitary and passive frustration similar to the one he had felt during the time he was 
resigned to living without a woman. He plunged into his work again, but he kept up the custom of 
playing dominoes with his father-in-law. In a house bound up in mourning, the nightly 
conversations consolidated the friendship between the two men. “Get married again. Aurelito,” his 
father-in-law would tell him. “I have six daughters for you to choose from.” On one occasion on the 
eve of the elections, Don Apolinar Moscote returned from one of his frequent trips worried about 
the political situation in the country. The Liberals were determined to go to war. Since Aureliano at 
that time had very confused notions about the difference between Conservatives and Liberals, his 
father-in-law gave him some schematic lessons. The Liberals, he said, were Freemasons, bad people, 
wanting to hang priests, to institute civil marriage and divorce, to recognize the rights of illegitimate 
children as equal to those of legitimate ones, and to cut the country up into a federal system that 
would take power away from the supreme authority. The Conservatives, on the other hand, who had 
received their power directly from God, proposed the establishment of public order and family 
morality. They were the defenders of the faith of Christ, of the principle of authority, and were not 
prepared to permit the country to be broken down into autonomous entities. Because of his 
humanitarian feelings Aureliano sympathized with the Liberal attitude with respect to the rights of 
natural children, but in any case, he could not understand how people arrived at the extreme of 
waging war over things that could not be touched with the hand. It seemed an exaggeration to him 
that for the elections his father-in-law had them send six soldiers armed with rifles under the 
command of a sergeant to a town with no political passions. They not only arrived, but they went 
from house to house confiscating hunting weapons, machetes, and even kitchen knives before they 
distributed among males over twenty-one the blue ballots with the names of the Conservative 
candidates and the red ballots with the names of the Liberal candidates. On the eve of the elections 
Don Apolinar Moscote himself read a decree that prohibited the sale of alcoholic beverages and the 
gathering together of more than three people who were not of the same family. The elections took 
place without incident. At eight o’clock on Sunday morning a wooden ballot box was set up in the 
square, which was watched over by the six soldiers. The voting was absolutely free, as Aureliano 
himself was able to attest since he spent almost the entire day with his father-in-law seeing that no 
one voted more than once. At four in the afternoon a roll of dmms in the square announced the 
closing of the polls and Don Apolinar Moscote sealed the ballot box with a label crossed by his 
signature. That night, while he played dominoes with Aureliano, he ordered the sergeant to break the 
seal in order to count the votes. There were almost as many red ballots as blue, but the sergeant left 
only ten red ones and made up the difference with blue ones. Then they sealed the box again with a 
new label and the first thing on the following day it was taken to the capital of the province. “The 
Uberals will go to war,” Aureliano said. Don Apolinar concentrated on his domino pieces. “If you’re 
saying that because of the switch in ballots, they won’t,” he said. “We left a few red ones in so there 
won’t be any complaints.” Aureliano understood the disadvantages of being in the opposition. “If I 



were a Liberal,” he said, “I’d go to war because of those ballots.” His father-in-law looked at him 
over his glasses. 

“Come now, Aurelito,” he said, “if you were a Liberal, even though you’re my son-in-law, you 
wouldn’t have seen the switching of the ballots.” 

What really caused indignation in the town was. not the results of the elections but the fact that 
the soldiers had not returned the weapons. A group of women spoke with Aureliano so that he 
could obtain the return of their kitchen knives from his father-in-law. Don Apolinar Moscote 
explained to him, in strictest confidence, that the soldiers had taken the weapons off as proof that 
the Liberals were preparing for war. The cynicism of the remark alarmed him. He said nothing, but 
on a certain night when Gerineldo Marquez and Magnifico Visbal were speaking with some other 
friends about the incident of the knives, they asked him if he was a Liberal or a Conservative. 
Aureliano did not hesitate. 

“If I have to be something I’ll be a Liberal,” he said, “because the Conservatives are tricky.” 

On the following day, at the urging of his friends, he went to see Dr. Alirio Noguera to be treated 
for a supposed pain in his liver. He did not even understand the meaning of the subterfuge. Dr. 
Alirio Noguera had arrived in Macondo a few years before with a medicine chest of tasteless pills 
and a medical motto that convinced no one: One nail draws another. In reality he was a charlatan. 
Behind his innocent facade of a doctor without prestige there was hidden a terrorist who with his 
short legged boots covered the scars that five years in the stocks had left on his legs. Taken prisoner 
during the first federalist adventure, he managed to escape to Curasao disguised in the garment he 
detested most in this world: a cassock. At the end of a prolonged exile, stirred up by the exciting 
news that exiles from all over the Caribbean brought to Curasao, he set out in a smuggler’s schooner 
and appeared in Riohacha with the bottles of pills that were nothing but refined sugar and a diploma 
from the University of Leipzig that he had forged himself. He wept with disappointment. The fed¬ 
eralist fervor, which the exiles had pictured as a powder keg about to explode, had dissolved into a 
vague electoral illusion. Embittered by failure, yearning for a safe place where he could await old age, 
the false homeopath took refuge in Macondo. In the narrow bottle-crowded room that he rented on 
one side of the square, he lived several years off the hopelessly ill who, after having tried everything, 
consoled themselves with sugar pills. His instincts of an agitator remained dormant as long as Don 
Apolinar Moscote was a figurehead. He passed the time remembering and fighting against asthma. 
The approach of the elections was the thread that led him once more to the skein of subversion. He 
made contact with the young people in the town, who lacked political knowledge, and he embarked 
on a stealthy campaign of instigation. The numerous red ballots that appeared is the box and that 
were attributed by Don Apolinar Moscote to the curiosity that came from youth were part of his 
plan: he made his disciples vote in order to show them that elections were a farce. “The only 
effective thing,” he would say, “is violence.” The majority of Aureliano’s friends were enthusiastic 
over the idea of liquidating the Conservative establishment, but no one had dared include him in the 
plans, not only because of his ties with the magistrate, but because of his solitary and elusive 
character. It was known, furthermore, that he had voted blue at his father-in-law’s direction. So it 
was a simple matter of chance that he revealed his political sentiments, and it was purely a matter of 
curiosity, a caprice, that brought him to visit the doctor for the treatment of a pain that he did not 
have. In the den that smelled of camphorated cobwebs he found himself facing a kind of dusty 
iguana whose lungs whistled when he breathed. Before asking him any questions the doctor took 
him to the window and examined the inside of his lower eyelid. “It’s not there,” Aureliano said, 
following what they told him. He pushed the tips of his fingers into his liver and added: “Here’s 
where I have the pain that won’t let me sleep.” Then Dr. Noguera closed the window with the 
pretext that there was too much sun, and explained to him in simple terms that it was a patriotic 
duty to assassinate Conservatives. For several days Aureliano carried a small bottle of pills in his 



shirt pocket. He would take it out every two hours, put three pills in the palm of his hand, and pop 
them into his mouth for them to be slowly dissolved on his tongue. Don Apolinar Moscote made 
fun of Inis faith in homeopathy, but those who were in on the plot recognized another one of their 
people in him. Almost all of the sons of the founders were implicated, although none of them knew 
concretely what action they were plotting. Nevertheless, the day the doctor revealed the secret to 
Aureliano, the latter elicited the whole plan of the conspiracy. Although he was convinced at that 
time of the urgency of liquidating the Conservative regime, the plot horrified him. Dr. Noguera had 
a mystique of personal assassination. His system was reduced to coordinating a series of individual 
actions which in one master stroke covering the whole nation would liquidate the functionaries of 
the regime along with their respective families, especially the children, in order to exterminate 
Conservatism at its roots. Don Apolinar Moscote, his wife, and his six daughters, needless to say, 
were on the list. 

“You’re no Liberal or anything else,” Aureliano told him without getting excited. “You’re nothing 
but a butcher.” 

“In that case,” the doctor replied with equal calm, “give me back the bottle. You don’t need it 
any more.” 

Only six months later did Aureliano learn that the doctor had given up on him as a man of action 
because he was a sentimental person with no future, with a passive character, and a definite solitary 
vocation. They tried to keep him surrounded, fearing that he would betray the conspiracy. Aureliano 
calmed them down: he would not say a word, but on the night they went to murder the Moscote 
family they would find him guarding the door. He showed such a convincing decision that the plan 
was postponed for an indefinite date. It was during those days that Ursula asked his opinion about 
the marriage between Pietro Crespi and Amaranta, and he answered that these were not times to be 
thinking about such a thing. For a week he had been carrying an old-fashioned pistol under his shirt. 
He kept his eyes on his friends. In the afternoon he would go have coffee with Jose Arcadio and 
Rebeca, who had begun to put their house in order, and from seven o’clock on he would play 
dominoes with his father-in-law. At lunchtime he was chatting with Arcadio, who was already a huge 
adolescent, and he found him more and more excited over the imminence of war. In school, where 
Arcadio had pupils older than himself mixed in with children who were barely beginning to talk, the 
Uberal fever had caught on. There was talk of shooting Father Nicanor, of turning the church into a 
school, of instituting free love. Aureliano tried to calm down his drive. He recommended discretion 
and prudence to him. Deaf to his calm reasoning, to his sense of reality, Arcadio reproached him in 
public for his weakness of character. Aureliano waited. Finally, in the beginning of December, 
Ursula burst into the workshop all upset. 

“War’s broken out!” 

War, in fact, had broken out three months before. Martial law was in effect in the whole country. 
The only one who knew it immediately was Don Apolinar Moscote, but he did not give the news 
even to his wife while the army platoon that was to occupy the town by surprise was on its way. 
They entered noiselessly before dawn, with two pieces of light artillery drawn by mules, and they set 
up their headquarters in the school. A 6 p.m. curfew was established. A more drastic search than the 
previous one was undertaken, house by house, and this time they even took farm implements. They 
dragged out Dr. Noguera, tied him to a tree in the square, and shot him without any due process of 
law. Father Nicanor tried to impress the military authorities with the miracle of levitation and had 
his head split open by the butt of a soldier’s rifle. The Liberal exaltation had been extinguished into a 
silent terror. Aureliano, pale, mysterious, continued playing dominoes with his father-in-law. He 
understood that in spite of his present title of civil and military leader of the town, Don Apolinar 
Moscote was once more a figurehead. The decisions were made by the army captain, who each 
morning collected an extraordinary levy for the defense of public order. Four soldiers under his 



command snatched a woman who had been bitten by a mad dog from her family and killed her with 
their rifle butts. One Sunday, two weeks after the occupation, Aureliano entered Gerineldo 
Marquez’s house and with his usual terseness asked for a mug of coffee without sugar. When the 
two of them were alone in the kitchen, Aureliano gave his voice an authority that had never been 
heard before. “Get the boys ready,” he said. “We’re going to war.” Gerineldo Marquez did not 
believe him. 

“With what weapons?” he asked. 

“With theirs,” Aureliano replied. 

Tuesday at midnight in a mad operation, twenty-one men under the age of thirty commanded by 
Aureliano Buendia, armed with table knives and sharpened tools, took the garrison by surprise, 
seized the weapons, and in the courtyard executed the captain and the four soldiers who had lulled 
the woman. 

That same night, while the sound of the firing squad could be heard, Arcadio was named civil 
and military leader of the town. The married rebels barely had time to take leave of their wives, 
whom they left to their our devices. They left at dawn, cheered by the people who had been 
liberated from the terror, to join the forces of the revolutionary general Victorio Medina, who, 
according to the latest reports, was on his way to Manaure. Before leaving, Aureliano brought Don 
Apolinar Moscote out of a closet. “Rest easy, father-in-law,” he told him. “The new government 
guarantees on its word of honor your personal safety and that of your family.” Don Apolinar 
Moscote had trouble identifying that conspirator in high boots and with a rifle slung over his 
shoulder with the person he had played dominoes with until nine in the evening. 

“This is madness, Aurelito,” he exclaimed. 

“Not madness,” Aureliano said. “War. And don’t call me Aurelito any more. Now I’m Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia.” 



Chapter 6 

COLONEL AURELIANO BUENDIA organized thirty-two armed uprisings and he lost them all. He had 
seventeen male children by seventeen different women and they were exterminated one after the 
other on a single night before the oldest one had reached the age of thirty-five. He survived fourteen 
attempts on his life, seventy-three ambushes, and a firing squad. He lived through a dose of 
strychnine in his coffee that was enough to kill a horse. He refused the Order of Merit, which the 
President of the Republic awarded him. He rose to be Commander in Chief of the revolutionary 
forces, with jurisdiction and command from one border to the other, and the man most feared by 
the government, but he never let himself be photographed. He declined the lifetime pension offered 
him after the war and until old age he made his living from the little gold fishes that he 
manufactured in his workshop in Macondo. Although he always fought at the head of his men, the 
only wound that he received was the one he gave himself after signing the Treaty of Neerlandia, 
which put an end to almost twenty years of civil war. He shot himself in the chest with a pistol and 
the bullet came out through his back without damaging any vital organ. The only thing left of all that 
was a street that bore his name in Macondo. And yet, as he declared a few years before he died of 
old age, he had not expected any of that on the dawn he left with his twenty-one men to join the 
forces of General Victorio Medina. 

“We leave Macondo in your care.” was all that he said to Arcadio before leaving. “We leave it to 
you in good shape, try to have it in better shape when we return.” 

Arcadio gave a very personal interpretation to the instructions. He invented a uniform with the 
braid and epaulets of a marshal, inspired by the prints in one of Melquiades’ books, and around his 
waist he buckled the saber with gold tassels that had belonged to the executed captain. He set up the 
two artillery pieces at the entrance to town, put uniforms on his former pupils, who had been 
amused by his fiery proclamations, and let them wander through the streets armed in order to give 
outsiders an impression of invulnerability. It was a double-edged deception, for the government did 
not dare attack the place for ten months, but when it did it unleashed such a large force against it 
that resistance was liquidated in a half hour. From the first day of his rule Arcadio revealed his 
predilection for decrees. He would read as many as four a day in order to decree and institute 
everything that came into his head. He imposed obligatory military service for men over eighteen, 
declared to be public property any animals walking the streets after six in the evening, and made 
men who were overage wear red armbands. He sequestered Father Nicanor in the parish house 
under pain of execution and prohibited him from saying mass or ringing the bells unless it was for a 
Liberal victory. In order that no one would doubt the severity of his aims, he ordered a firing squad 
organized in the square and had it shoot at a scarecrow. At first no one took him seriously. They 
were, after all, schoolchildren playing at being grown-ups. But one night, when Arcadio went into 
Catarino’s store, the trumpeter in the group greeted him with a fanfare that made the customers 
laugh and Arcadio had him shot for disrespect for the authorities. People who protested were put on 
bread and water with their ankles in a set of stocks that he had set up in a schoolroom. “You 
murderer!” Ursula would shout at him every time she learned of some new arbitrary act. “When 
Aureliano finds out he’s going to shoot you and I’ll be the first one to be glad.” But it was of no use. 
Arcadio continued tightening the tourniquet with unnecessary rigor until he became the cmelest 
mler that Macondo had ever known. “Now let them suffer the difference,” Don Apolinar Moscote 
said on one occasion. “This is the Liberal paradise.” Arcadio found out about it. At the head of a 
patrol he assaulted the house, destroyed the furniture, flogged the daughters, and dragged out Don 
Apolinar Moscote. When Ursula burst into the courtyard of headquarters, after having gone through 



the town shouting shame and brandishing with rage a pitch-covered whip, Arcadio himself was 
preparing to give the squad the command to fire. 

“I dare you to, bastard!” Ursula shouted. 

Before Arcadio had time to read she let go with the first blow of the lash. “I dare you to, 
murderer!” she shouted. “And kill me too, son of an evil mother. That way I won’t have the eyes to 
weep for the shame of having raised a monster.” Whipping him without mercy, she chased him to 
the back of the courtyard, where Arcadio curled up like a snail in its shell. Don Apolinar Moscote 
was unconscious, tied to the post where previously they had had the scarecrow that had been cut to 
pieces by shots fired in fun. The boys in the squad scattered, fearful that Ursula would go after them 
too. But she did not even look at them. She left Arcadio with Inis uniform torn, roaring with pain 
and rage, and she untied Don Apolinar Moscote and took him home. Before leaving the 
headquarters she released the prisoners from the stocks. 

From that time on she was the one who ruled in the town. She reestablished Sunday masses, 
suspended the use of red armbands, and abrogated the harebrained decrees. But in spite of her 
strength, she still wept over her unfortunate fate. She felt so much alone that she sought the useless 
company of her husband, who had been forgotten under the chestnut tree. “Look what we’ve come 
to,” she would tell him as the June rains threatened to knock the shelter down. “Look at the empty 
house, our children scattered all over the world, and the two of us alone again, the same as in the 
beginning.” Jose Arcadio Buendia, sunk in an abyss of unawareness, was deaf to her lamentations. 
At the beginning of his madness he would announce his daily needs with urgent Latin phrases. In 
fleeting clear spells of lucidity, when Amaranta would bring him his meals he would tell her what 
bothered him most and would accept her sucking glasses and mustard plasters in a docile way. But at 
the time when Ursula went to lament by his side he had lost all contact with reality. She would bathe 
him bit by bit as he sat on his stool while she gave him news of the family. “Aureliano went to war 
more than four months ago and we haven’t heard anything about him,” she would say, scrubbing his 
back with a soaped brush. “Jose Arcadio came back a big man, taller than you, and all covered with 
needle-work, but he only brought shame to our house.” She thought she noticed, however, that her 
husband would grow sad with the bad news. Then she decided to lie to him. ‘Rou won’t believe 
what I’m going to tell you,” she said as she threw ashes over his excrement in order to pick it up 
with the shovel. “God willed that Jose Arcadio and Rebeca should get married, and now they’re very 
happy.” She got to be so sincere in the deception that she ended up by consoling herself with her 
own lies. “Arcadio is a serious man now,” she said, “and very brave, and a fine-looking young man 
with his uniform and saber.” It was like speaking to a dead man, for Jose Arcadio Buendia was 
already beyond the reach of any worry. But she insisted. He seemed so peaceful, so indifferent to 
everything that she decided to release him. He did not even move from his stool. He stayed there, 
exposed to the sun and the rain, as if the thongs were unnecessary, for a dominion superior to any 
visible bond kept him tied to the trunk of the chestnut tree. Toward August, when winter began to 
last forever, Ursula was finally able to give him a piece of news that sounded like the truth. 

“Would you believe it that good luck is still pouring down on us?” she told him. “Amaranta and 
the pianola Italian are going to get married.” 

Amaranta and Pietro Crespi had, in fact, deepened their friendship, protected by Ursula, who this 
time did not think it necessary to watch over the visits. It was a twilight engagement. The Italian 
would arrive at dusk, with a gardenia in his buttonhole, and he would translate Petrarch’s sonnets for 
Amaranta. They would sit on the porch, suffocated by the oregano and the roses, he reading and she 
sewing lace cuffs, indifferent to the shocks and bad news of the war, until the mosquitoes made 
them take refuge in the parlor. Amaranta’s sensibility, her discreet but enveloping tenderness had 
been wearing an invisible web about her fiance, which he had to push aside materially with his pale 
and ringless fingers in order to leave the house at eight o’clock. They had put together a delightful 



album with the postcards that Pietro Crespi received from Italy. They were pictures of lovers in 
lonely parks, with vignettes of hearts pierced with arrows and golden ribbons held by doves. “I’ve 
been to this park in Florence,” Pietro Crespi would say, going through the cards. “A person can put 
out his hand and the birds will come to feed.” Sometimes, over a watercolor of Venice, nostalgia 
would transform the smell of mud and putrefying shellfish of the canals into the warm aroma of 
flowers. Amaranta would sigh, laugh, and dream of a second homeland of handsome men and 
beautiful women who spoke a childlike language with ancient cities of whose past grandeur only the 
cats among the mbble remained. After crossing the ocean in search of it, after having confused 
passion with the vehement stroking of Rebeca, Pietro Crespi had found love. Happiness was 
accompanied by prosperity. His warehouse at that time occupied almost a whole block and it was a 
hothouse of fantasy, with reproductions of the bell tower of Florence that told time with a concert 
of carillons, and music boxes from Sorrento and compacts from China that sang five-note melodies 
when they were opened, and all the musical instmments imaginable and all the mechanical toys that 
could be conceived. Bmno Crespi, his younger brother, was in charge of the store because Pietro 
Crespi barely had enough time to take care of the music school. Thanks to him the Street of the 
Turks, with its dazzling display of knickknacks, became a melodic oasis where one could forget 
Arcadio’s arbitrary acts and the distant nightmare of the war. When Ursula ordered the revival of 
Sunday mass, Pietro Crespi donated a German harmonium to the church, organized a children’s 
chorus, and prepared a Gregorian repertory that added a note of splendor to Father Nicanor’s quiet 
rite. No one doubted that he would make Amaranta a fortunate mate. Not pushing their feelings, 
letting themselves be borne along by the natural flow of their hearth they reached a point where all 
that was left to do was set a wedding date. They did not encounter any obstacles. Ursula accused 
herself inwardly of having twisted Rebecca’s destiny with repeated postponements and she was not 
about to add more remorse. The rigor of the mourning for Remedios had been relegated to the 
background by the mortifications of the war, Aureliano’s absence, Arcadio’s brutality, and the 
expulsion of Jose Arcadio and Rebeca. With the imminence of the wedding, Pietro Crespi had 
hinted that Aureliano Jose, in whom he had stirred up a love that was almost filial, would be 
considered their oldest child. Everything made Amaranta think that she was heading toward a 
smooth happiness. But unlike Rebeca, she did not reveal the slightest anxiety. With the same 
patience with which she dyed tablecloths, sewed lace masterpieces, and embroidered needlepoint 
peacocks, she waited for Pietro Crespi to be unable to bear the urges of his heart and more. Her day 
came with the ill-fated October rains. Pietro Crespi took the sewing basket from her lap and he told 
her, “We’ll get married next month.” Amaranta did not tremble at the contact with his icy hands. 
She withdrew hers like a timid little animal and went back to her work. 

“Don’t be simple, Crespi.” She smiled. “I wouldn’t marry you even if I were dead.” 

Pietro Crespi lost control of himself. He wept shamelessly, almost breaking his fingers with 
desperation, but he could not break her down. “Don’t waste your time,” was all that Amaranta said. 
“If you really love me so much, don’t set foot in this house again.” Ursula thought she would go 
mad with shame. Pietro Crespi exhausted all manner of pleas. He went through incredible extremes 
of humiliation. He wept one whole afternoon in Ursula’s lap and she would have sold her soul in 
order to comfort him. On rainy nights he could be seen prowling about the house with an umbrella, 
waiting for a light in Amaranta’s bedroom. He was never better dressed than at that time. His august 
head of a tormented emperor had acquired a strange air of grandeur. He begged Amaranta’s friends, 
the ones who sewed with her on the porch, to try to persuade her. He neglected his business. He 
would spend the day in the rear of the store writing wild notes, which he would send to Amaranta 
with flower petals and dried butterflies, and which she would return unopened. He would shut 
himself up for hours on end to play the zither. One night he sang. Macondo woke up in a kind of 
angelic stupor that was caused by a zither that deserved more than this world and a voice that led 



one to believe that no other person on earth could feel such love. Pietro Crespi then saw the lights 
go on in every window in town except that of Amaranta. On November second, All Souls’ Day, his 
brother opened the store and found all the lamps lighted, all the music boxes opened, and all the 
docks striking an interminable hour, and in the midst of that mad concert he found Pietro Crespi at 
the desk in the rear with his wrists cut by a razor and his hands thrust into a basin of benzoin. 

Ursula decreed that the wake would be in her house. Father Nicanor was against a religious 
ceremony and burial in consecrated ground. Ursula stood up to him. “In a way that neither you nor 
I can understand, that man was a saint,” she said. “So I am going to bury him, against your wishes, 
beside Melquiades’ grave.” She did it with the support of the whole town and with a magnificent 
funeral. Amaranta did not leave her bedroom. From her bed she heard Ursula’s weeping, the steps 
and whispers of the multitude that invaded the house, the wailing of the mourners, and then a deep 
silence that smelled of trampled flowers. For a long time she kept on smelling Pietro Crespi’s 
lavender breath at dusk, but she had the strength not to succumb to delirium. Ursula abandoned her. 
She did not even raise her eyes to pity her on the afternoon when Amaranta went into the kitchen 
and put her hand into the coals of the stove until it hurt her so much that she felt no more pain but 
instead smelled the pestilence of her own singed flesh. It was a stupid cure for her remorse. For 
several days she went about the house with her hand in a pot of egg whites, and when the burns 
healed it appeared as if the whites had also scarred over the sores on her heart. The only external 
trace that the tragedy left was the bandage of black gauze that she put on her burned hand and that 
she wore until her death. 

Arcadio gave a rare display of generosity by decreeing official mourning for Pietro Crespi. Ursula 
interpreted it as the return of the strayed lamb. But she was mistaken. She had lost Arcadio, not 
when he had put on his military uniform, but from the beginning. She thought she had raised him as 
a son, as she had raised Rebeca, with no privileges or discrimination. Nevertheless, Arcadio was a 
solitary and frightened child during the insomnia plague, in the midst of Ursula’s utilitarian fervor, 
during the delirium of Jose Arcadio Buendfa, the hermetism of Aureliano, and the mortal rivalry 
between Amaranta and Rebeca. Aureliano had taught him to read and write, thinking about other 
things, as he would have done with a stranger. He gave him his clothing so that Visitacion could take 
it in when it was ready to be thrown away. Arcadio suffered from shoes that were too large, from his 
patched pants, from his female buttocks. He never succeeded in communicating with anyone better 
than he did with Visitacion and Cataure in their language. Melquiades was the only one who really 
was concerned with him as he made him listen to his incomprehensible texts and gave him lessons 
in the art of daguerreotype. No one imagined how much he wept in secret and the desperation with 
which he tried to revive Melquiades with the useless study of his papers. The school, where they 
paid attention to him and respected him, and then power, with his endless decrees and his glorious 
uniform, freed him from the weight of an old bitterness. One night in Catarino’s store someone 
dared tell him, “you don’t deserve the last name you carry.” Contrary to what everyone expected, 
Arcadio did not have him shot. 

“To my great honor,” he said, “I am not a Buendia.” 

Those who knew the secret of his parentage thought that the answer meant that he too was 
aware of it, but he had really never been. Pilar Ternera, his mother, who had made his blood boil in 
the darkroom, was as much an irresistible obsession for him as she had been first for Jose Arcadio 
and then for Aureliano. In spite of her having lost her charms and the splendor of her laugh, he 
sought her out and found her by the trail of her smell of smoke. A short time before the war, one 
noon when she was later than usual in coming for her younger son at school, Arcadio was waiting 
for her in the room where he was accustomed to take his siesta and where he later set up the stocks. 
While the child played in the courtyard, he waited in his hammock, trembling with anxiety, knowing 
that Pillar Ternera would have to pass through there. She arrived. Arcadio grabbed her by the wrist 



and tried to pull her into the hammock. “I can’t, I can’t,” Pilar Ternera said in horror. “You can’t 
imagine how much I would like to make you happy, but as God is my witness I can’t.” Arcadio took 
her by the waist with his tremendous hereditary strength and he felt the world disappear with the 
contact of her skin. “Don’t play the saint,” he said. “After all, everybody knows that you’re a 
whore.” Pilar overcame the disgust that her miserable fate inspired in her. 

“The children will find out,” she murmured. “It will be better if you leave the bar off the door 

Arcadio waited for her that night trembling with fever in his hammock. He waited without 
sleeping, listening to the aroused crickets in the endless hours of early morning and the implacable 
telling of time by the curlews, more and more convinced that he had been deceived. Suddenly, when 
anxiety had broken down into rage, the door opened. A few months later, facing the firing squad, 
Arcadio would relive the wandering steps in the classroom, the stumbling against benches, and 
finally the bulk of a body in the shadows of the room and the breathing of air that was pumped by a 
heart that was not his. He stretched out his hand and found another hand with two rings on the 
same finger about to go astray in the darkness. He felt the structure of the veins, the pulse of its 
misfortune, and felt the damp palm with a lifeline cut off at the base of the thumb by the claws of 
death. Then he realized that this was not the woman he was waiting for, because she did not smell of 
smoke but of flower lotion, and she had inflated, blind breasts with nipples like, a man’s, a sex as 
stony and round as a nut, and the chaotic tenderness of excited inexperience. She was a virgin and 
she had the unlikely name of Santa Sofia de la Piedad. Pilar Ternera had paid her fifty pesos, half of 
her life savings, to do what she was doing. Arcadio, had seen her many times working in her parents’ 
small food store but he had never taken a good look at her because she had that rare virtue of never 
existing completely except at the opportune moment. But from that day on he huddled like a cat in 
the warmth of her armpit She would go to the school at siesta time with the consent of her parents, 
to whom Pilar Ternera hid paid the other half of her savings. Later on, when the government troops 
dislodged them from the place where they had made love, they did it among the cans of lard and 
sacks of corn in the back of the store. About the time that Arcadio was named civil and military 
leader they had a daughter. 

The only relatives who knew about it were Jose Arcadio and Rebeca, with whom Arcadio 
maintained close relations at that time, based not so much on kinship as on complicity. Jose Arcadio 
had put his neck into the marital yoke. Rebeca’s firm character, the voracity of her stomach, her 
tenacious ambition absorbed the tremendous energy of her husband, who had been changed from a 
lazy, woman-chasing man into an enormous work animal. They kept a clean and neat house. Rebeca 
would open it wide at dawn and the wind from the graveyard would come in through the windows 
and go out through the doors to the yard and leave the whitewashed walls and furniture tanned by 
the saltpeter of the dead. Her hunger for earth, the cloc-cloc of her parents’ bones, the impatience of 
her blood as it faced Pietro Crespi’s passivity were relegated to the attic of her memory. All day long 
she would embroider beside the window, withdrawn from the uneasiness of the war, until the 
ceramic pots would begin to vibrate in the cupboard and she would get up to warm the meal, much 
before the appearance, first, of the mangy hounds, and then of the colossus in leggings and spurs 
with a double-barreled shotgun, who sometimes carried a deer on his shoulder and almost always a 
string of rabbits or wild ducks. One afternoon, at the beginning of his rule, Arcadio paid them a 
surprise visit. They had not seen him since they had left the house, but he seemed so friendly and 
familiar that they invited him to share the stew. 

Only when they were having coffee did Arcadio reveal the motive behind his visit: he had 
received a complaint against Jose Arcadio. It was said that he had begun by plowing his own yard 
and had gone straight ahead into neighboring lands, knocking down fences and buildings with his 
oxen until he took forcible possession of the best plots of land around. On the peasants whom he 



had not despoiled because he was not interested in their lands, he levied a contribution which he 
collected every Saturday with his hunting dogs and his double-barreled shotgun. He did not deny it. 
He based his right on the fact that the usurped lands had been distributed by Jose Arcadio Buendia 
at the time of the founding, and he thought it possible to prove that his father had been crazy ever 
since that time, for he had disposed of a patrimony that really belonged to the family. It was an 
unnecessary allegation, because Arcadio had not come to do justice. He simply offered to set up a 
registry office so that Jose Arcadio could legalize his title to the usurped land, under the condition 
that he delegate to the local government the right to collect the contributions. They made an 
agreement. Years later, when Colonel Aureliano Buendia examined the titles to property, he found 
registered in his brother’s name all of the land between the hill where his yard was on up to the 
horizon, including the cemetery, and discovered that during the eleven months of his rule, Arcadio 
had collected not only the money of the contributions, but had also collected fees from people for 
the right to bury their dead in Jose Arcadio’s land. 

It took Ursula several months to find out what was already public knowledge because people hid 
it from her so as not to increase her suffering. At first she suspected it. “Arcadio is building a 
house,” she confided with feigned pride to her husband as she tried to put a spoonful of calabash 
syrup into his mouth. Nevertheless, she involuntarily sighed and said, “I don’t know why, but all this 
has a bad smell to me.” Later on, when she found out that Arcadio had not only built a house but 
had ordered some Viennese furniture, she confirmed her suspicion that he was using public funds. 
“You’re the shame of our family name,” she shouted at him one Sunday after mass when she saw 
him in his new house playing cards with his officers. Arcadio paid no attention to her. Only then did 
Ursula know that he had a six-month-old daughter and that Santa Sofia de la Piedad, with whom he 
was living outside of marriage, was pregnant again. She decided to write to Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia, wherever he was, to bring him up to date on the situation. But the fast-moving events of 
those days not only prevented her plans from being carried out, they made her regret having 
conceived them. The war, which until then had been only a word to designate a vague and remote 
circumstance, became a concrete and dramatic reality. Around the end of February an old woman 
with an ashen look arrived in Macondo riding a donkey loaded down with brooms. She seemed so 
inoffensive that the sentries let her pass without any questions as another vendor, one of the many 
who often arrived from the towns in the swamp. She went directly to the barracks. Arcadio received 
her in the place where the classroom used to be and which at that time had been transformed into a 
kind of rearguard encampment, with roiled hammocks hanging on hooks and mats piled up in the 
corners, and rifles and carbines and even hunting shotguns scattered on the floor. The old woman 
stiffened into a military salute before identifying herself: 

“I am Colonel Gregorio Stevenson.” 

He brought bad news. The last centers of Liberal resistance, according to what he said, were 
being wiped out. Colonel Aureliano Buendia, whom he had left fighting in retreat near Riohacha, 
had given him a message for Arcadio. He should surrender the town without resistance on the 
condition that the lives and property of Liberals would be respected. Arcadio examined that strange 
messenger who could have been a fugitive grandmother with a look of pity. 

“You have brought something in writing, naturally,” he said. 

“Naturally,” the emissary answered, “I have brought nothing of the sort. It’s easy to understand 
that under the present circumstances a person can’t carry anything that would compromise him.” 

As he was speaking he reached into his bodice and took out a small gold fish. “I think that this 
will be sufficient,” he said. Arcadio could see that indeed it was one of the little fishes made by 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia. But anyone could have bought it before the war or stolen it, and it had 
no merit as a safe-conduct pass. The messenger even went to the extreme of violating a military 
secret so that they would believe his identity. He revealed that he was on a mission to Curasao, 



where he hoped to recruit exiles from all over the Caribbean and acquire arms and supplies 
sufficient to attempt a landing at the end of the year. With faith in that plan. Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia was not in favor of any useless sacrifices at that time. But Arcadio was inflexible. He had 
the prisoner put into the stocks until he could prove his identity and he resolved to defend the town 
to the death. 

He did not have long to wait. The news of the Liberal defeat was more and more concrete. 
Toward the end of March, before a dawn of premature rain, the tense calm of the previous weeks 
was abruptly broken by the desperate sounds of a cornet and a cannon shot that knocked down the 
steeple of the church. Actually, Arcadio’s decision to resist was madness. He had only fifty poorly 
armed men with a ration of twenty cartridges apiece. But among them, his former pupils, excited by 
the high-sounding proclamations, the determination reigned to sacrifice their skins for a lost cause. 
In the midst of the tramping of boots, contradictory commands, cannon shots that made the earth 
tremble, wild shooting, and the senseless sound of cornets, the supposed Colonel Stevenson 
managed to speak to Arcadio. “Don’t let me undergo the indignity of dying in the stocks in these 
women’s clothes,” he said to him. “If I have to die, let me die fighting.” He succeeded in convincing 
him. Arcadio ordered them to give him a weapon and twenty cartridges, and he left him with five 
men to defend headquarters while he went off with his staff to head up the resistance. He did not 
get to the road to the swamp. The barricades had been broken and the defenders were openly 
fighting in the streets, first until they used up their ration of rifle bullets, then with pistols against 
rifles, and finally hand to hand. With the imminence of defeat, some women went into the street 
armed with sticks and kitchen knives. In that confusion Arcadio found Amaranta, who was looking 
for him like a madwoman, in her nightgown and with two old pistols that had belonged to Jose 
Arcadio Buendia. He gave his rifle to an officer who had been disarmed in the fight and escaped 
with Amaranta through a nearby street to take her home. Ursula was, in the doorway waiting, 
indifferent to the cannon shots that had opened up a hole in the front of the house next door. The 
rain was letting up, but the streets were as slippery and as smooth as melted soap, and one had to 
guess distances in the darkness. Arcadio left Amaranta with Ursula and made an attempt to face two 
soldiers who had opened up with heavy firing from the corner. The old pistols that had been kept 
for many years in the bureau did not work. Protecting Arcadio with her body, Ursula tried to drag 
him toward the house. 

“Come along in the name of God,” she shouted at him. “There’s been enough madness!” 

The soldiers aimed at them. 

“Let go of that man, ma’am,” one of them shouted, “or we won’t be responsible!” 

Arcadio pushed Ursula toward the house and surrendered. A short time later the shooting 
stopped and the bells began to toll. The resistance had been wiped out in less than half an hour. Not 
a single one of Arcadio’s men had survived the attack, but before dying they had killed three 
hundred soldiers. The last stronghold was the barracks. Before being attacked, the supposed Colonel 
Gregorio Stevenson had freed the prisoners and ordered his men to go out and fight in the street. 
The extraordinary mobility and accurate aim with which he placed his twenty cartridges gave the 
impression that the barracks was well-defended, and the attackers blew it to pieces with cannon fire. 
The captain who directed the operation was startled to find the rubble deserted and a single dead 
man in his undershorts with an empty rifle still clutched in an arm that had been blown completely 
off. He had a woman’s full head of hair held at the neck with a comb and on his neck a chain with a 
small gold fish. When he turned him over with the tip of his boot and put the light on his face, the 
captain was perplexed. “Jesus Christ,” he exclaimed. Other officers came over. 

“Look where this fellow turned up,” the captain said. “It’s Gregorio Stevenson.” 

At dawn, after a summary court martial, Arcadio was shot against the wall of the cemetery. In the 
last two hours of his life he did not manage to understand why the fear that had tormented him 



since childhood had disappeared. Impassive, without even worrying about making a show of his 
recent bravery, he listened to the interminable charges of the accusation. He thought about Ursula, 
who at that hour must have been under the chestnut tree having coffee with Jose Arcadio Buendia. 
He thought about his eight-month-old daughter, who still had no name, and about the child who 
was going to be born in August. He thought about Santa Sofia de la Piedad, whom he had left the 
night before salting down a deer for next day’s lunch, and he missed her hair pouring over her 
shoulders and her eyelashes, which looked as if they were artificial. He thought about his people 
without sentimentality, with a strict dosing of his accounts with life, beginning to understand how 
much he really loved the people he hated most. The president of the court-martial began his final 
speech when Arcadio realized that two hours had passed. “Even if the proven charges did not have 
merit enough,” the president was saying, “the irresponsible and criminal boldness with which the 
accused drove his subordinates on to a useless death would be enough to deserve capital 
punishment.” In the shattered schoolhouse where for the first time he had felt the security of power, 
a few feet from the room where he had come to know the uncertainty of love, Arcadio found the 
formality of death ridiculous. Death really did not matter to him but life did, and therefore the 
sensation he felt when they gave their decision was not a feeling of fear but of nostalgia. He did not 
speak until they asked him for his last request. 

“Tell my wife,” he answered in a well-modulated voice, “to give the girl the name of Ursula.” He 
paused and said it again: “Ursula, like her grandmother. And tell her also that if the child that is to be 
born is a boy, they should name him Jose Arcadio, not for his uncle, but for his grandfather.” 

Before they took him to the execution wall Father Nicanor tried to attend him. “I have nothing 
to repent,” Arcadio said, and he put himself under the orders of the squad after drinking a cup of 
black coffee. The leader of the squad, a specialist in summary executions, had a name that had much 
more about it than chance: Captain Roque Carnicero, which meant butcher. On the way to the 
cemetery, under the persistent drizzle, Arcadio saw that a radiant Wednesday was breaking out on 
the horizon. His nostalgia disappeared with the mist and left an immense curiosity in its place. Only 
when they ordered him to put his back to the wall did Arcadio see Rebeca, with wet hair and a pink 
flowered dress, opening wide the door. He made an effort to get her to recognize him. And Rebeca 
did take a casual look toward the wall and was paralyzed with stupor, barely able to react and wave 
good-bye to Arcadio. Arcadio answered her the same way. At that instant the smoking mouths of 
the rifles were aimed at him and letter by letter he heard the encyclicals that Melquiades had chanted 
and he heard the lost steps of Santa Sofia de la Piedad, a virgin, in the classroom, and in his nose he 
felt the same icy hardness that had drawn his attention in the nostrils of the corpse of Remedios. 
“Oh, God damn it!” he managed to think. “I forgot to say that if it was a girl they should name her 
Remedios.” Then, all accumulated in the rip of a claw, he felt again all the terror that had tormented 
him in his life. The captain gave the order to fire. Arcadio barely had time to put out his chest and 
raise his head, not understanding where the hot liquid that burned his thighs was pouring from. 

“Bastards!” he shouted. “Long live the Liberal Party!” 



Chapter 7 

THE WAR was over in May. Two weeks before the government made the official announcement in a 
high-sounding proclamation, which promised merciless punishment for those who had started the 
rebellion, Colonel Aureliano Buendia fell prisoner just as he was about to reach the western frontier 
disguised as an Indian witch doctor. Of the twenty-one men who had followed him to war, fourteen 
fell in combat, six were wounded, and only one accompanied him at the moment of final defeat: 
Colonel Gerineldo Marquez. The news of his capture was announced in Macondo with a special 
proclamation. “He’s alive,” Ursula told her husband. “Let’s pray to God for his enemies to show 
him clemency.” After three days of weeping, one afternoon as she was stirring some sweet milk 
candy in the kitchen she heard her son’s voice clearly in her ear. “It was Aureliano, “ she shouted, 
mnning toward the chestnut tree to tell her husband the news. “I don’t know how the miracle took 
place, but he’s alive and we’re going to see him very soon.” She took it for granted. She had the 
floors of the house scmbbed and changed the position of the furniture. One week later a rumor 
from somewhere that was not supported by any proclamation gave dramatic confirmation to the 
prediction. Colonel Aureliano Buendia had been condemned to death and the sentence would be 
carried out in Macondo as a lesson to the population. On Monday, at ten-thirty in the morning, 
Amaranta was dressing Aureliano Jose when she heard the sound of a distant troop and the blast of 
a cornet one second before Ursula burst into the room with the shout: “They’re bringing him now!” 
The troop struggled to subdue the overflowing crowd with their rifle butts. Ursula and Amaranta 
ran to the corner, pushing their way through, and then they saw him. He looked like a beggar. His 
clothing was torn, his hair and beard were tangled, and he was barefoot. He was walking without 
feeling the burning dust, his hands tied behind his back with a rope that a mounted officer had 
attached to the head of his horse. Along with him, also ragged and defeated, they were bringing 
Colonel Gerineldo Marquez. They were not sad. They seemed more disturbed by the crowd that was 
shouting all lands of insults at the troops. 

“My son!” Ursula shouted in the midst of the uproar, and she slapped the soldier who tried to 
hold her back. The officer’s horse reared. Then Colonel Aureliano Buendia stopped, tremulous, 
avoided the arms of his mother, and fixed a stern look on her eyes. 

“Go home, Mama,” he said. “Get permission from the authorities to come see me in jail.” 

He looked at Amaranta, who stood indecisively two steps behind Ursula, and he smiled as he 
asked her, “What happened to your hand?” Amaranta raised the hand with the black bandage. “A 
burn,” she said, and took Ursula away so that the horses would not run her down. The troop took 
off. A special guard surrounded the prisoners and took them to the jail at a trot. 

At dusk Ursula visited Colonel Aureliano Buendia in jail. She had tried to get permission through 
Don Apolinar Moscote, but he had lost all authority in the face of the military omnipotence. Father 
Nicanor was in bed with hepatic fever. The parents of Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, who had not 
been condemned to death, had tried to see him and were driven off with rifle butts. Facing the 
impossibility of finding anyone to intervene, convinced that her son would be shot at dawn, Ursula 
wrapped up the tilings she wanted to bring him and went to the jail alone. 

“I am the mother of Colonel Aureliano Buendia,” she announced. 

The sentries blocked her way. “I’m going in in any case,” Ursula warned them. “So if you have 
orders to shoot, start right in.” She pushed one of them aside and went into the former classroom, 
where a group of half-dressed soldiers were oiling their weapons. An officer in a field uniform, 
ruddy-faced, with very thick glasses and ceremonious manners, signaled to the sentries to withdraw. 

“I am the mother of Colonel Aureliano Buendia,” Ursula repeated. 



“You must mean,” the officer corrected with a friendly smile, “that you are the mother of Mister 
Aureliano Buendia.” Ursula recognized in his affected way of speaking the languid cadence of the 
stuck-up people from the highlands. 

“As you say, mister•” she accepted, “just as long as I can see him.” 

There were superior orders that prohibited visits to prisoners condemned to death, but the 
officer assumed the responsibility of letting her have a fifteen-minute stay. Ursula showed him what 
she had in the bundle: a change of clean clothing, the short boots that her son had worn at his 
wedding, and the sweet milk candy that she had kept for him since the day she had sensed his 
return. She found Colonel Aureliano Buendia in the room that was used as a cell, lying on a cot with 
his arms spread out because his armpits were paved with sores. They had allowed him to shave. The 
thick mustache with twisted ends accentuated the sharp angles of his cheekbones. He looked paler 
to Ursula than when he had left, a little taller, and more solitary than ever. He knew all about the 
details of the house: Pietro Crespi’s suicide, Arcadio’s arbitrary acts and execution, the dauntlessness 
of Jose Arcadio Buendia underneath the chestnut tree. He knew that Amaranta had consecrated her 
virginal widowhood to the rearing of Aureliano Jose and that the latter was beginning to show signs 
of quite good judgment and that he had learned to read and write at the same time he had learned to 
speak. From the moment In which she entered the room Ursula felt inhibited by the maturity of her 
son, by his aura of command, by the glow of authority that radiated from his skin. She was surprised 
that he was so well-informed. “You knew all along that I was a wizard,” he joked. And he added in a 
serious tone, “This morning, when they brought me here, I had the impression that I had already 
been through all that before.” In fact, while the crowd was roaring alongside him, he had been 
concentrating his thoughts, startled at how the town had aged. The leaves of the almond trees were 
broken. The houses, painted blue, then painted red, had ended up with an indefinable coloration. 

“What did you expect?” Ursula sighed. “Time passes.” 

“That’s how it goes,” Aureliano admitted, “but not so much.” 

In that way the long-awaited visit, for which both had prepared questions and had even 
anticipated answers, was once more the usual everyday conversation. When the guard announced 
the end of the visit, Aureliano took out a roll of sweaty papers from under the cot. They were his 
poetry, the poems inspired by Remedios, which he had taken with him when he left, and those he 
had written later on during chance pauses in the war. “Promise me that no one will read them,” he 
said. “Light the oven with them this very night.” Ursula promised and stood up to kiss him good¬ 

“I brought you a revolver,” she murmured. 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia saw that the sentry could not see. “It won’t do me any good,” he said 
in a low voice, “but give it to me in case they search you on the way out.” Ursula took the revolver 
out of her bodice and put it under the mattress of the cot. “And don’t say good-bye,” he concluded 
with emphatic calmness. “Don’t beg or bow down to anyone. Pretend that they shot me a long time 
ago.” Ursula bit her lip so as not to cry. 

“Put some hot stones on those sores,” she said. 

She turned halfway around and left the room. Colonel Aureliano Buendia remained standing, 
thoughtful, until the door closed. Then he lay down again with his arms open. Since the beginning 
of adolescence, when he had begun to be aware of his premonitions, he thought that death would be 
announced with a definite, unequivocal, irrevocable signal, but there were only a few hours left 
before he would die and the signal had not come. On a certain occasion a very beautiful woman had 
come into his camp in Tucurinca and asked the sentries’ permission to see him. They let her through 
because they were aware of the fanaticism of mothers, who sent their daughters to the bedrooms of 
the most famous warriors, according to what they said, to improve the breed. That night Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia was finishing the poem about the man who is lost in the rain when the girl came 



into his room. He turned his back to her to put the sheet of paper into the locked drawer where he 
kept his poetry. And then he sensed it. He grasped the pistol in the drawer without turning his head. 

“Please don’t shoot,” he said. 

When he turned around holding his Pistol, the girl had lowered hers and did not know what to 
do. In that way he had avoided four out of eleven traps. On the other hand, someone who was 
never caught entered the revolutionary headquarters one night in Manaure and stabbed to death his 
close friend Colonel Magnifico Visbal, to whom he had given his cot so that he could sweat out a 
fever. A few yards away, sleeping in a hammock in the same room, he was not aware of anything. 
His efforts to systematize his premonitions were useless. They would come suddenly in a wave of 
supernatural lucidity, like an absolute and momentaneous conviction, but they could not be grasped. 
On occasion they were so natural that he identified them as premonitions only after they had been 
fulfilled. Frequently they were nothing but ordinary bits of superstition. But when they condemned 
him to death and asked him to state his last wish, he did not have the least difficulty in identifying 
the premonition that inspired his answer. 

“I ask that the sentence be carried out in Macondo,” he said. 

The president of the court-martial was annoyed. “Don’t be clever, Buendia,” he told him. 
“That’s just a trick to gain more time.” 

“If you don’t fulfill it, that will be your worry.” the colonel said, “but that’s my last wish.” 

Since then the premonitions had abandoned him. The day when Ursula visited him in jail, after a 
great deal of thinking he came to the conclusion that perhaps death would not be announced that 
time because it did not depend on chance but on the will of his executioners. He spent the night 
awake, tormented by the pain of his sores. A little before dawn he heard steps in the hallway. 
“They’re coming,” he said to himself, and for no reason he thought of Jose Arcadio Buendia, who at 
that moment was thinking about him under the dreary dawn of the chestnut tree. He did not feel 
fear or nostalgia, but an intestinal rage at the idea that this artificial death would not let him see the 
end of so many things that he had left unfinished. The door opened and a sentry came in with a mug 
of coffee. On the following day at the same hour he would still be doing what he was then, raging 
with the pain in his armpits, and the same thing happened. On Thursday he shared the sweet milk 
candy with the guards and put on his clean clothes, which were tight for him, and the patent leather 
boots. By Friday they had still not shot him. 

Actually, they did not dare carry out the sentence. The rebelliousness of the town made the 
military men think that the execution of Colonel Aureliano Buendia might have serious political 
consequences not only in Macondo but throughout the area of the swamp, so they consulted the 
authorities in the capital of the province. On Saturday night, while they were waiting for an answer 
Captain Roque Carnicero went with some other officers to Catarino’s place. Only one woman, 
practically threatened, dared take him to her room. “They don’t want to go to bed with a man they 
know is going to die,” she confessed to him. “No one knows how it will come, but everybody is 
going around saying that the officer who shoots Colonel Aureliano Buendia and all the soldiers in 
the squad, one by one, will be murdered, with no escape, sooner or later, even if they hide at the 
ends of the earth.” Captain Roque Carnicero mentioned it to the other officers and they told their 
superiors. On Sunday, although no one had revealed it openly, although no action on the part of the 
military had disturbed the tense calm of those days, the whole town knew that the officers were 
ready to use any manner of pretext to avoid responsibility for the execution. The official order 
arrived in the Monday mail: the execution was to be carried out within twenty-four hours. That night 
the officers put seven slips of paper into a cap, and Captain Roque Carnicero’s unpeaceful fate was 
foreseen by his name on the prize slip. “Bad luck doesn’t have any chinks in it,” he said with deep 
bitterness. “I was born a son of a bitch and I’m going to die a son of a bitch.” At five in the morning 



he chose the squad by lot, formed it in the courtyard, and woke up the condemned man with a 
premonitory phrase. 

“Let’s go, Buendia,” he told him. “Our time has come.” 

“So that’s what it was,” the colonel replied. “I was dreaming that my sores had burst.” 

Rebeca Buendia got up at three in the morning when she learned that Aureliano would be shot. 
She stayed in the bedroom in the dark, watching the cemetery wall through the half-opened window 
as the bed on which she sat shook with Jose Arcadio’s snoring. She had waited all week with the 
same hidden persistence with which during different times she had waited for Pietro Crespi’s letters. 
“They won’t shoot him here,” Jose Arcadio, told her. “They’ll shoot him at midnight in the barracks 
so that no one will know who made up the squad, and they’ll bury him right there.” Rebeca kept on 
waiting. “They’re stupid enough to shoot him here,” she said. She was so certain that she had 
foreseen the way she would open the door to wave good-bye. “They won’t bring him through the 
streets,” Jose Arcadio insisted, with six scared soldiers and knowing that the people are ready for 
anything.” Indifferent to her husband’s logic, Rebeca stayed by the window. 

“You’ll see that they’re just stupid enough,” she said. 

On Tuesday, at five-in the. morning, Jose Arcadio had drunk his coffee and let the dogs out 
when Rebeca closed the window and held onto the head of the bed so as not to fall down. “There, 
they’re bringing him,” she sighed. “He’s so handsome.” Jose Arcadio looked out the window and 
saw him. tremulous in the light of dawn. He already had his back to the wall and his hands were on 
his hips because the burning knots in his armpits would not let him lower them. “A person fucks 
himself up so much,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia said. “Fucks himself up so much just so that six 
weak fairies can kill him and he can’t do anything about it.” He repeated it with so much rage that it 
almost seemed to be fervor, and Captain Roque Carnicero was touched, because he thought he was 
praying. When the squad took aim, the rage had materialized into a viscous and bitter substance that 
put his tongue to sleep and made him close his eyes. Then the aluminum glow of dawn disappeared 
and he saw himself again in short pants, wearing a tie around his neck, and he saw his father leading 
him into the tent on a splendid afternoon, and he saw the ice. When he heard the shout he thought 
that it was the final command to the squad. He opened his eyes with a shudder of curiosity, 
expecting to meet the incandescent trajectory of the bullets, but he only saw Captain Roque 
Carnicero with his arms in the air and Jose Arcadio crossing the street with his fearsome shotgun 
ready to go off. 

“Don’t shoot,” the captain said to Jose Arcadio. “You were sent by Divine Providence.” 

Another war began right there. Captain Roque Carnicero and his six men left with Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia to free the revolutionary general Victorio Medina, who had been condemned to 
death in Riohacha. They thought they could save time by crossing the mountains along the trail that 
Jose Arcadio Buendia had followed to found Macondo, but before a week was out they were 
convinced that it was an impossible undertaking. So they had to follow the dangerous route over the 
outcroppings; with no other munitions but what the firing squad had. They would camp near the 
towns and one of them, with a small gold fish in his hand, would go in disguise in broad daylight to 
contact the dormant Liberals, who would go out hunting on the following morning and never 
return. When they saw Riohacha from a ridge in the mountains. General Victorio Medina had been 
shot. Colonel Aureliano Buendla’s men proclaimed him chief of the revolutionary forces of the 
Caribbean coast with the rank of general. He assumed the position but refused the promotion and 
took the stand that he would never accept it as long as the Conservative regime was in power. At the 
end of three months they had succeeded in arming more than a thousand men, but they were wiped 
out. The survivors reached the eastern frontier. The next thing that was heard of them was that they 
had landed on Cabo de la Vela, coming from the smaller islands of the Antilles, and a message from 
the government was sent all over by telegraph and included in jubilant proclamations throughout the 



country announcing the death of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. But two days later a multiple telegram 
which almost overtook the previous one announced another uprising on the southern plains. That 
was how the legend of the ubiquitous Colonel Aureliano Buendia, began. Simultaneous and 
contradictory information declared him victorious in Villanueva, defeated in Guacamayal, devoured 
by Motilon Indians, dead in a village in the swamp, and up in arms again in Urumita. The Liberal 
leaders, who at that moment were negotiating for participation in the congress, branded him in 
adventurer who did not represent the party. The national government placed him in the category of 
a bandit and put a price of five thousand pesos on his head. After sixteen defeats, Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia left Guajira with two thousand well-armed Indians and the garrison, which was taken by 
surprise as it slept, abandoned Riohacha. He established his headquarters there and proclaimed total 
war against the regime. The first message he received from the government was a threat to shoot 
Colonel Gerineldo Marquez within forty-eight hours if he did not withdraw with his forces to the 
eastern frontier. Colonel Roque Carnicero, who was his chief of staff then, gave him the telegram 
with a look of consternation, but he read it with unforeseen joy. 

“How wonderful!” he exclaimed. “We have a telegraph office in Macondo now.” 

His reply was definitive. In three months he expected to establish his headquarters in Macondo. 
If he did not find Colonel Gerineldo Marquez alive at that time he would shoot out of hand all of 
the officers he held prisoner at that moment starting with the generals, and he would give orders to 
his subordinates to do the same for the rest of the war. Three months later, when he entered 
Macondo in triumph, the first embrace he received on the swamp road was that of Colonel Geri¬ 
neldo Marquez. 

The house was full of children. Ursula had taken in Santa Sofia de la Piedad with her older 
daughter and a pair of twins, who had been born five months after Arcadio had been shot. Contrary 
to the victim’s last wishes, she baptized the girl with the name of Remedios. I’m sure that was what 
Arcadio meant,” she alleged. “We won’t call her Ursula, because a person suffers too much with that 
name.” The twins were named Jose Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo. Amaranta took care 
of them all. She put small wooden chairs in the living room and established a nursery with other 
children from neighboring families. When Colonel Aureliano Buendia returned in the midst of 
exploding rockets and ringing bells, a children’s chorus welcomed him to the house. Aureliano Jose, 
tall like his grandfather, dressed as a revolutionary officer, gave him military honors. 

Not all the news was good. A year after the flight of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, Jose Arcadio 
and Rebeca went to live in the house Arcadio had built. No one knew about his intervention to halt 
the execution. In the new house, located on the best corner of the square, in the shade of an almond 
tree that was honored by three nests of redbreasts, with a large door for visitors and four windows 
for light, they set up a hospitable home. Rebeca’s old friends, among them four of the Moscote 
sisters who were still single, once more took up the sessions of embroidery that had been 
intermpted years before on the porch with the begonias. Jose Arcadio continued to profit from the 
usurped lands, the title to which was recognized by the Conservative government. Every afternoon 
he could be seen returning on horseback, with his hunting dogs and his double-barreled shotgun and 
a string of rabbits hanging from his saddle. One September afternoon, with the threat of a storm, he 
returned home earlier than usual. He greeted Rebeca in the dining room, tied the dogs up in the 
courtyard, hung the rabbits up in the kitchen to be salted later, and went to the bedroom to change 
his clothes. Rebeca later declared that when her husband went into the bedroom she was locked in 
the bathroom and did not hear anything. It was a difficult version to believe, but there was no other 
more plausible, and no one could think of any motive for Rebeca to murder the man who had made 
her happy. That was perhaps the only mystery that was never cleared up in Macondo. As soon as 
Jose Arcadio closed the bedroom door the sound of a pistol shot echoed through the house. A 
trickle of blood came out under the door, crossed the living room, went out into the street, 



continued on in a straight line across the uneven terraces, went down steps and climbed over curbs, 
passed along the Street of the Turks, turned a corner to the right and another to the left, made a 
right angle at the Buendia house, went in under the closed door, crossed through the parlor, hugging 
the walls so as not to stain the rugs, went on to the other living room, made a wide curve to avoid 
the dining-room table, went along the porch with the begonias, and passed without being seen under 
Amaranta’s chair as she gave an arithmetic lesson to Aureliano Jose , and went through the pantry 
and came out in the kitchen, where Ursula was getting ready to crack thirty-six eggs to make bread. 

“Holy Mother of God!” Ursula shouted. 

She followed the thread of blood back along its course, and in search of its origin she went 
through the pantry, along the begonia porch where Aureliano Jose was chanting that three plus three 
is six and six plus three is nine, and she crossed the dining room and the living rooms and followed 
straight down the street, and she turned first to the right and then to the left to the Street of the 
Turks, forgetting that she was still wearing her baking apron and her house slippers, and she came 
out onto the square and went into the door of a house where she had never been, and she pushed 
open the bedroom door and was almost suffocated by the smell of burned gunpowder, and she 
found Jose Arcadio lying face down on the ground on top of the leggings he had just taken off, and 
she saw the starting point of the thread of blood that had already stopped flowing out of his right 
ear. They found no wound on his body nor could they locate the weapon. Nor was it possible to 
remove the smell of powder from the corpse. First they washed him three times with soap and a 
scmbbing brush, and they mbbed him with salt and vinegar, then with ashes and lemon, and finally 
they put him in a barrel of lye and let him stay for six hours. They scrubbed him so much that the 
arabesques of his tattooing began to fade. When they thought of the desperate measure of seasoning 
him with pepper, cumin seeds, and laurel leaves and boiling him for a whole day over a slow fire, he 
had already begun to decompose and they had to bury him hastily. They sealed him hermetically in a 
special coffin seven and a half feet long and four feet wide, reinforced inside with iron plates and 
fastened together with steel bolts, and even then the smell could be perceived on the streets through 
which the funeral procession passed. Father Nicanor, with his liver enlarged and tight as a drum, 
gave him his blessing from bed. Although in the months that followed they reinforced the grave 
with walls about it, between which they threw compressed ash, sawdust, and quicklime, the cemetery 
still smelled of powder for many years after, until the engineers from the banana company covered 
the grave over with a shell of concrete. As soon as they took the body out, Rebeca closed the doors 
of her house and buried herself alive, covered with a thick crust of disdain that no earthly temptation 
was ever able to break. She went out into the street on one occasion, when she was very old, with 
shoes the color of old silver and a hat made of tiny flowers, during the time that the Wandering Jew 
passed through town and brought on a heat wave that was so intense that birds broke through 
window screens to come to die in the bedrooms. The last time anyone saw her alive was when with 
one shot she killed a thief who was trying to force the door of her house. Except for Argenida, her 
servant and confidante, no one ever had any more contact with her after that. At one time it was 
discovered that she was writing letters to the Bishop, whom she claimed as a first cousin, but it was 
never said whether she received any reply. The town forgot about her. 

In spite of his triumphal return, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was not enthusiastic over the looks 
of things. The government troops abandoned their positions without resistance and that aroused an 
illusion of victory among the Liberal population that it was not right to destroy, but the 
revolutionaries knew the tmth, Colonel Aureliano Buendia better than any of them. Although at that 
moment he had more than five thousand men under his command and held two coastal states, he 
had the feeling of being hemmed in against the sea and caught in a situation that was so confused 
that when he ordered the restoration of the church steeple, which had been knocked down by army 
cannon fire, Father Nicanor commented from his sickbed: “This is silly; the defenders of the faith of 



Christ destroy the church and the Masons order it rebuilt.” Looking for a loophole through which 
he could escape, he spent hours on end in the telegraph office conferring with the commanders of 
other towns, and every time he would emerge with the firmest impression that the war was at a 
stalemate. When news of fresh liberal victories was received it was celebrated with jubilant 
proclamations, but he would measure the real extent of them on the map and could see that his 
forces were penetrating into the jungle, defending themselves against malaria and mosquitoes, 
advancing in the opposite direction from reality. “We’re wasting time,” he would complain to his 
officers. “We’re wasting time while the bastards in the party are begging for seats in congress.” Lying 
awake at night, stretched out on his back in a hammock in the same room where he had awaited 
death, he would evoke the image of lawyers dressed in black leaving the presidential palace in the icy 
cold of early morning with their coat collars turned up about their ears, rubbing their hands, whis¬ 
pering, taking refuge in dreary early-morning cafes to speculate over what the president had meant 
when he said yes, or what he had meant when he said no, and even to imagine what the president 
was thinking when he said something quite different, as he chased away mosquitoes at a temperature 
of ninety-five degrees, feeling the approach of the fearsome dawn when he would have to give his 
men the command to jump into the sea. 

One night of uncertainty, when Pilar Ternera was singing in the courtyard with the soldiers, he 
asked her to read the future in her cards. “Watch out for your mouth,” was all that Pilar Ternera 
brought out after spreading and picking up the cards three times. “I don’t know what it means, but 
the sign is very clear. Watch out for your mouth.” Two days later someone gave an orderly a mug of 
black coffee and the orderly passed it on to someone else and that one to someone else until, hand 
to hand, it reached Colonel Aureliano Buendia office. He had not asked for any coffee, but since it 
was there the colonel drank it. It had a dose of nux vomica strong enough to kill a horse. When they 
took him home he was stiff and arched and his tongue was sticking out between his teeth. Ursula 
fought against death over him. After cleaning out his stomach with emetics, she wrapped him in hot 
blankets and fed him egg whites for two days until his harrowed body recovered its normal 
temperature. On the fourth day he was out of danger. Against his will, pressured by Ursula and his 
officers, he stayed in bed for another week. Only then did he learn that Iris verses had not been 
burned. “I didn’t want to be hasty,” Ursula explained to him. “That night when I went to light the 
oven I said to myself that it would be better to wait until they brought the body.” In the haze of 
convalescence, surrounded by Remedios’ dusty dolls. Colonel Aureliano Buendia, brought back the 
decisive periods of his existence by reading his poetry. He started writing again. For many hours, 
balancing on the edge of the surprises of a war with no future, in rhymed verse he resolved his 
experience on the shores of death. Then his thoughts became so clear that he was able to examine 
them forward and backward. One night he asked Colonel Gerineldo Marquez: 

“Tell me something, old friend: why are you fighting?” 

“What other reason could there be?” Colonel Gerineldo Marquez answered. “For the great liberal 

“You’re lucky because you know why,” he answered. “As far as I’m concerned. I’ve come to 
realize only just now that I’m fighting because of pride.” 

“That’s bad,” Colonel Gerineldo Marquez said. Colonel Aureliano Buendia was amused at his 
alarm. “Naturally,” he said. “But in any case, it’s better than not knowing why you’re fighting.” He 
looked him in the eyes and added with a smile: 

“Or fighting, like you, for something that doesn’t have any meaning for anyone.” 

His pride had prevented him from making contact with the armed groups in the interior of the 
country until the leaders of the party publicly rectified their declaration that he was a bandit. He 
knew, however, that as soon as he put those scruples aside he would break the vicious circle of the 
war. Convalescence gave him time to reflect. Then he succeeded in getting Ursula to give him the 



rest of her buried inheritance and her substantial savings. He named Colonel Gerineldo Marquez 
civil and military leader of Macondo and he went off to make contact with the rebel groups in the 

Colonel Gerineldo Marquez was not only the man closest to Colonel Aureliano Buendia, but 
Ursula received him as a member of the family. Fragile, timid, with natural good manners, he was, 
however, better suited for war than for government. His political advisers easily entangled him in 
theoretical labyrinths. But he succeeded in giving Macondo the atmosphere of rural peace that 
Colonel Aureliano, Buendia dreamed of so that he could die of old age making little gold fishes. 
Although he lived in his parents’ house he would have lunch at Ursula’s two or three times a week. 
He initiated Aureliano Jose in the use of firearms, gave him early military instruction, and for several 
months took him to live in the barracks, with Ursula’s consent, so that he could become a man. 
Many years before, when he was still almost a child, Gerineldo Marquez had declared his love for 
Amaranta. At that time she was so illusioned with her lonely passion for Pietro Crespi that she 
laughed at him. Gerineldo Marquez waited. On a certain occasion he sent Amaranta a note from jail 
asking her to embroider a dozen batiste handkerchiefs with his father’s initials on them. He sent her 
the money. A week later Amaranta, brought the dozen handkerchiefs to him in jail along with the 
money and they spent several hours talking about the past. “When I get out of here I’m going to 
marry you,” Gerineldo Marquez told her when she left. Amaranta laughed but she kept on thinking 
about him while she taught the children to read and she tried to revive her juvenile passion for 
Pietro Crespi. On Saturday, visiting days for the prisoners, she would stop by the house of 
Gerineldo Marquez’s parents and accompany them to the jail. On one of those Saturdays Ursula was 
surprised to see her in the kitchen, waiting for the biscuits to come out of the oven so that she could 
pick the best ones and cap them in a napkin that she had embroidered for the occasion. 

“Marty him,” she told her. “You’ll have a hard time finding another man like him.” 

Amaranta feigned a reaction of displeasure. 

“I don’t have to go around hunting for men,” she answered. “I’m taking these biscuits to 
Gerineldo because I’m sorry that sooner or later they’re going to shoot him.” 

She said it without thinking, but that was the time that the government had announced its threat 
to shoot Colonel Gerineldo Marquez if the rebel forces did not surrender Riohacha. The visits 
stopped. Amaranta shut herself up to weep, overwhelmed by a feeling of guilt similar to the one that 
had tormented her when Remedios died, as if once more her careless words had been responsible 
for a death. Her mother consoled her. She inured her that Colonel Aureliano Buendia would do 
something to prevent the execution and promised that she would take charge of attracting Gerineldo 
Marquez herself when the war was over. She fulfilled her promise before the imagined time. When 
Gerineldo Marquez returned to the house, invested with his new dignity of civil and military leader, 
she received him as a son, thought of delightful bits of flattery to hold him there, and prayed with all 
her soul that he would remember his plan to marry Amaranta. Her pleas seemed to be answered. On 
the days that he would have lunch at the house. Colonel Gerineldo Marquez would linger on the 
begonia porch playing Chinese checkers with Amaranta. Ursula would bring them coffee and milk 
and biscuits and would take over the children so that they would not bother them. Amaranta was 
really making an effort to kindle in her heart the forgotten ashes of her youthful passion. With an 
anxiety that came to be intolerable, she waited for the lunch days, the afternoons of Chinese 
checkers, and time flew by in the company of the warrior with a nostalgic name whose fingers 
trembled imperceptibly as he moved the pieces. But the day on which Colonel Gerineldo Marquez 
repeated his wish to marry her, she rejected him. 

“I’m not going to marry anyone,” she told him, “much less you. You love Aureliano so much 
that you want to marry me because you can’t marry him.” 



Colonel Gerineldo Marquez was a patient man. “I’ll keep on insisting,” he said. “Sooner or later 
I’ll convince you.” He kept on visiting the house. Shut up in her bedroom biting back her secret 
tears, Amaranta put her fingers in her ears so as not to bear the voice of the suitor as he gave Ursula 
the latest war news, and in spite of the fact that she was dying to see him she had the strength not to 
go out and meet him. 

At that time Colonel Aureliano Buendia took the time to send a detailed account to Macondo 
every two weeks. But only once, almost eight months after he had left, did he write to Ursula. A 
special messenger brought a sealed envelope to the house with a sheet of paper inside bearing the 
colonel’s delicate hand: Take good care of Papa because he is going to die. Ursula became alarmed. “If 
Aureliano says so it’s because Aureliano knows,” she said. And she had them help her take Jose 
Arcadio Buendia to his bedroom. Not only was he as heavy as ever, but during his prolonged stay 
under the chestnut tree he had developed the faculty of being able to increase his weight at will, to 
such a degree that seven men were unable to lift him and they had to drag him to the bed. A smell 
of tender mushrooms, of wood-flower fungus, of old and concentrated outdoors impregnated the 
air of the bedroom as it was breathed by the colossal old man weather-beaten by the sun and the 
rain. The next morning he was not in his bed. In spite of his undiminished strength, Jose Arcadio 
Buendia was in no condition to resist. It was all the same to him. If he went back to the chestnut 
tree it was not because he wanted to but because of a habit of his body. Ursula took care of him, fed 
him, brought him news of Aureliano. But actually, the only person with whom he was able to have 
contact for a long time was Pmdencio Aguilar. Almost pulverized at that time by the decrepitude of 
death, Pmdencio Aguilar would come twice a day to chat with him. They talked about fighting 
cocks. They promised each other to set up a breeding farm for magnificent birds, not so much to 
enjoy their victories, which they would not need then, as to have something to do on the tedious 
Sundays of death. It was Pmdencio Aguilar who cleaned him fed him and brought him splendid 
news of an unknown person called Aureliano who was a colonel in the war. When he was alone, 
Jose Arcadio Buendia consoled himself with the dream of the infinite rooms. He dreamed that he 
was getting out of bed, opening the door and going into an identical room with the same bed with a 
wrought-iron head, the same wicker chair, and the same small picture of the Virgin of Help on the 
back wall. From that room he would go into another that was just the same, the door of which 
would open into another that was just the same, the door of which would open into another one just 
the same, and then into another exactly alike, and so on to infinity. He liked to go from room to 
room. As in a gallery of parallel mirrors, until Pmdencio Aguilar would touch him on the shoulder. 
Then he would go back from room to room, walking in reverse, going back over his trail, and he 
would find Pmdencio Aguilar in the room of reality. But one night, two weeks after they took him 
to his bed, Pmdencio Aguilar touched his shoulder in an intermediate room and he stayed there 
forever, thinking that it was the real room. On the following morning Ursula was bringing him his 
breakfast when she saw a man coming along the hall. He was short and stocky, with a black suit on 
and a hat that was also black, enormous, pulled down to his taciturn eyes. “Good Lord,” Ursula 
thought, “I could have sworn it was Melqufades.” It was Cataure, Visitacion’s brother, who had left 
the house fleeing from the insomnia plague and of whom there had never been any news. Visitacion 
asked him why he had come back, and he answered her in their solemn language: 

“I have come for the exequies of the king.” 

Then they went into Jose Arcadio Buendfa’s room, shook him as hard as they could, shouted in 
his ear, put a mirror in front of his nostrils, but they could not awaken him. A short time later, when 
the carpenter was taking measurements for the coffin, through the window they saw a light rain of 
tiny yellow flowers falling. They fell on the town all through the night in a silent storm, and they 
covered the roofs and blocked the doors and smothered the animals who dept outdoors. So many 



flowers fell from the sky that in the morning the streets were carpeted with a compact cushion and 
they had to clear them away with shovels and rakes so that the funeral procession could pass by. 



Chapter 8 

SITTNG IN THE WICKER ROCKING chair with her interrupted work in her lap, Amaranta watched 
Aureliano, Jose , his chin covered with foam, stropping his razor to give himself his first shave. His 
blackheads bled and he cut his upper lip as he tried to shape a mustache of blond fuzz and when it 
was all over he looked the same as before, but the laborious process gave Amaranta the feeling that 
she had begun to grow old at that moment. 

“You look just like Aureliano when he was your age,” she said. “You’re a man now.” 

He had been for a long time, ever since that distant day when Amaranta thought he was still a 
child and continued getting undressed in front of him in the bathroom as she had always done, as 
she had been used to doing ever since Pilar Ternera had turned him over to her to finish his 
upbringing. The first time that he saw her the only thing that drew his attention was the deep 
depression between her breasts. He was so innocent that he asked her what had happened to her 
and Amaranta pretended to dig into her breasts with the tips of her fingers and answered: “They 
gave me some terrible cuts.” Some time later, when she had recovered from Pietro Crespi’s suicide 
and would bathe with Aureliano Jose again, he no longer paid attention to the depression but felt a 
strange trembling at the sight of the splendid breasts with their brown nipples. He kept on 
examining her, discovering the miracle of her intimacy inch by inch, and he felt his skin tingle as he 
contemplated the way her skin tingled when it touched the water. Ever since he was a small child he 
had the custom of leaving his hammock and waking up in Amaranta’s bed, because contact with her 
was a way of overcoming his fear of the dark. But since that day when he became aware of his own 
nakedness, it was not fear of the dark that drove him to crawl in under her mosquito netting but an 
urge to feel Amaranta’s warm breathing at dawn. Early one morning during the time when she 
refused Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, Aureliano Jose awoke with the feeling that he could not 
breathe. He felt Amaranta’s fingers searching across his stomach like warm and anxious little 
caterpillars. Pretending to sleep, he changed his position to make it easier, and then he felt the hand 
without the black bandage diving like a blind shellfish into the algae of his anxiety. Although they 
seemed to ignore what both of them knew and what each one knew that the other knew, from that 
night on they were yoked together in an inviolable complicity. Aureliano Jose could not get to sleep 
until he heard the twelve-o’clock waltz on the parlor dock, and the mature maiden whose skin was 
beginning to grow sad did not have a moments’ rest until she felt slip in under her mosquito netting 
that sleepwalker whom she had raised, not thinking that he would be a palliative for her solitude. 
Later they not only slept together, naked, exchanging exhausting caresses, but they would also chase 
each other into the corners of the house and shut themselves up in the bedrooms at any hour of the 
day in a permanent state of unrelieved excitement. They were almost discovered by Ursula one 
afternoon when she went into the granary as they were starting to kiss. “Do you love your aunt a 
lot?” she asked Aureliano Jose in an innocent way. He answered that he did. “That’s good of you,” 
Ursula concluded and finished measuring the flour for the bread and returned to the kitchen. That 
episode drew Amaranta out of her delirium. She realized that she had gone too far, that she was no 
longer playing kissing games with a child, but was floundering about in an autumnal passion, one 
that was dangerous and had no future, and she cut it off with one stroke. Aureliano Jose, who was 
then finishing his military training, finally woke up to reality and went to sleep in the barracks. On 
Saturdays he would go with the soldiers to Catarino’s store. He was seeking consolation for his 
abrupt solitude, for his premature adolescence with women who smelled of dead flowers, whom he 
idealized in the darkness and changed into Amaranta by means of the anxious efforts of his 



A short time later contradictory news of the war began to come in. While the government itself 
admitted the progress of the rebellion, the officers in Macondo had confidential reports of the 
imminence of a negotiated peace. Toward the first of April a special emissary identified himself to 
Colonel Gerineldo Marquez. He confirmed the fact to him that the leaders of the party had indeed 
established contact with the rebel leaders in the interior and were on the verge of arranging an 
armistice in exchange for three cabinet posts for the Liberals, a minority representation in the 
congress, and a general amnesty for rebels who laid down their arms. The emissary brought a highly 
confidential order from Colonel Aureliano Buendfa, who was not in agreement with the terms of the 
armistice. Colonel Gerineldo Marquez was to choose five of his best men and prepare to leave the 
country with them. The order would be carried out with the strictest secrecy. One week before the 
agreement was announced, and in the midst of a storm of contradictory mmors, Colonel Aureliano 
Buendfa and ten tmsted officers, among them Colonel Roque Carnicero, stealthily arrived in 
Macondo after midnight, dismissed the garrison, buried their weapons, and destroyed their records. 
By dawn they had left town, along with Colonel Gerineldo Marquez and his five officers. It was such 
a quick and secret operation that Ursula did not find out about it until the last moment, when 
someone tapped on her bedroom window and whispered, “If you want to see Colonel Aureliano 
Buendfa, come to the door right now.” Ursula Jumped out of bed and went to the door in her night¬ 
gown and she was just able to see the horsemen who were leaving town gallop off in a mute cloud 
of dust. Only on the following day did she discover that Aureliano Jose had gone with his father. 

Ten days after a joint communique by the government and the opposition announced the end of 
the war, there was news of the first armed uprising of Colonel Aureliano Buendfa on the western 
border. His small and poorly armed force was scattered in less than a week. But during that year, 
while Liberals and Conservatives tried to make the country believe in reconciliation, he attempted 
seven other revolts. One night he bombarded Riohacha from a schooner and the garrison dragged 
out of bed and shot the fourteen best-known Liberals in the town as a reprisal. For more than two 
weeks he held a customs post on the border and from there sent the nation a call to general war. 
Another of his expectations was lost for three months in the jungle in a mad attempt to cross more 
than a thousand miles of virgin territory in order to proclaim war on the outskirts of the capital. On 
one occasion he was lea than fifteen miles away from Macondo and was obliged by government 
patrols to hide in the mountains, very close to the enchanted region where his father had found the 
fossil of a Spanish galleon many years before. 

Visitacion died around that time. She had the pleasure of dying a natural death after having 
renounced a throne out of fear of insomnia, and her last wish was that they should dig up the wages 
she had saved for more than twenty years under her bed and send the money to Colonel Aureliano 
Buendfa so that he could go on with the war. But Ursula did not bother to dig it up because it was 
rumored in those days that Colonel Aureliano Buendfa had been killed in a landing near the 
provincial capital. The official announcement—the fourth in less than two years—was considered 
true for almost six months because nothing further was heard of him. Suddenly, when Ursula and 
Amaranta had added new mourning to the past period, unexpected news arrived. Colonel Aureliano 
Buendfa was alive, but apparently he had stopped harassing the government of his country and had 
joined with the victorious federalism of other republics of the Caribbean. He would show up under 
different names farther and farther away from his own country. Later it would be learned that the 
idea that was working on him at the time was the unification of the federalist forms of Central 
America in order to wipe out conservative regimes from Alaska to Patagonia. The first direct news 
that Ursula received from him, several years after his departure, was a wrinkled and faded letter that 
had arrived, passing through various hands, from Santiago, Cuba. 

“We’ve lost him forever,” Ursula exclaimed on reading it. “If he follows this path he’ll spend 
Christmas at the ends of the earth.” 



The person to whom she said it, who was the first to whom she showed the letter, was the 
Conservative general Jose Raquel Moncada, mayor of Macondo since the end of the war. “This 
Aureliano,” General Moncada commented, “what a pity that he’s not a Conservative.” He really 
admired him. Like many Conservative civilians, Jose Raquel Moncada had waged war in defense of 
his party and had earned the title of general on the field of battle, even though he was not a military 
man by profession. On the contrary, like so many of his fellow party members, he was an 
antimilitarist. He considered military men unprincipled loafers, ambitious plotters, experts in facing 
down civilians in order to prosper during times of disorder. Intelligent, pleasant, mddy-faced, a man 
who liked to eat and watch cockfights, he had been at one time the most feared adversary of Colonel 
Aureliano Buendfa. He succeeded in imposing his authority over the career officers in a wide sector 
along the coast. One time when he was forced by strategic circumstances to abandon a stronghold 
to the forces of Colonel Aureliano Buendfa, he left two letters for him. In one of them quite long, he 
invited him to join in a campaign to make war more humane. The other letter was for his wife, who 
lived in Liberal territory, and he left it with a plea to see that it reached its destination. From then on, 
even in the bloodiest periods of the war, the two commanders would arrange tmces to exchange 
prisoners. They were pauses with a certain festive atmosphere, which General Moncada took 
advantage of to teach Colonel Aureliano Buendfa how to play chess. They became great friends. 
They even came to think about the possibility of coordinating the popular elements of both parties, 
doing away with the influence of the military men and professional politicians, and setting up a 
humanitarian regime that would take the best from each doctrine. When the war was over, while 
Colonel Aureliano, Buendfa was sneaking about through the narrow trails of permanent sub. 
version, General Moncada was named magistrate of Macondo. He wore civilian clothes, replaced the 
soldiers with unarmed policemen, enforced the amnesty laws, and helped a few families of Liberals 
who had been killed in the war. He succeeded in having Macondo raised to the status of a 
municipality and he was therefore its first mayor, and he created an atmosphere of confidence that 
made people think of the war as an absurd nightmare of the past. Father Nicanor, consumed by 
hepatic fever, was replaced by Father Coronel, whom they called “The Pup,” a veteran of the first 
federalist war. Bruno Crespi, who was married to Amparo Mos. cote, and whose shop of toys and 
musical instruments continued to prosper, built a theater which Spanish companies included in their 
Itineraries. It was a vast open-air hall with wooden benches, a velvet curtain with Greek masks, and 
three box offices in the shape of lions’ heads, through whose mouths the tickets were sold. It was 
also about that time that the school was rebuilt. It was put under the charge of Don Melchor 
Escalona, an old teacher brought from the swamp, who made his lazy students walk on their knees 
in the lime-coated courtyard and made the students who talked in class eat hot chili with the 
approval of their parents. Aureliano Segundo and Jose Arcadio Segundo, the willful twins of Santa 
Sofia de la Piedad, were the first to sit in the classroom, with their slates, their chalk, and their 
aluminum jugs with their names on them. Remedios, who inherited her mother’s pure beauty, began 
to be known as Remedios the Beauty. In spite of time, of the superimposed Periods of mourning, 
and her accumulated afflictions, Ursula resisted growing old. Aided by Santa Sofia de la Piedad, she 
gave a new drive to her pastry business and in a few years not only recovered the fortune that her 
son had spent in the war, but she once more stuffed with pure gold the gourds buried in the 
bedroom. “As long as God gives me life,” she would say, “there will always be money in this 
madhouse.” That was how things were when Aureliano Jose deserted the federal troops in 
Nicaragua, signed on as a crewman on a German ship, and appeared in the kitchen of the house, 
sturdy as a horse, as dark and long-haired as an Indian, and with a secret determination to marry 

When Amaranta, saw him come in, even though he said nothing she knew immediately why he 
had come back. At the table they did not dare look each other in the face. But two weeks after his 



return, in the presence of Ursula, he set his eyes on hers and said to her, “I always thought a lot 
about you.” Amaranta avoided him. She guarded against chance meetings. She tried not to become 
separated from Remedios the Beauty. She was ashamed of the blush that covered her cheeks on the 
day her nephew asked her how long she intended wearing the black bandage on her hand, for she 
interpreted it as an allusion to her virginity. When he arrived, she barred the door of her bedroom, 
but she heard his peaceful snoring in the next room for so many nights that she forgot about the 
precaution. Early one morning, almost two months after his return, she heard him come into the 
bedroom. Then, instead of fleeing, instead of shouting as she had thought she would, she let herself 
be saturated with a soft feeling of relaxation. She felt him slip in under the mosquito netting as he 
had done when he was a child, as he had always done, and she could not repress her cold sweat and 
the chattering of her teeth when she realized that he was completely naked. “Go away,” she 
whispered, suffocating with curiosity. “Go away or I’ll scream.” But Aureliano Jose knew then what 
he had to do, because he was no longer a child but a barracks animal. Starting with that night the 
dull, inconsequential battles began again and would go on until dawn. “I’m your aunt,” Amaranta 
murmured, spent. “It’s almost as if I were your mother, not just because of my age but because the 
only thing I didn’t do for you was nurse you.” Aureliano would escape at dawn and come back early 
in the morning on the next day, each time more excited by the proof that she had not barred the 
door. He had nit stopped desiring her for a single instant. He found her in the dark bedrooms of 
captured towns, especially in the most abject ones, and he would make her materialize in the smell 
of dry blood on the bandages of the wounded, in the instantaneous terror of the danger of death, at 
all times and in all places. He had fled from her in an attempt to wipe out her memory, not only 
through distance but by means of a muddled fury that his companions at arms took to be boldness, 
but the more her image wallowed in the dunghill of the war, the more the war resembled Amaranta. 
That was how he suffered in exile, looking for a way of lulling her with, his own death, until he 
heard some old man tell the tale of the man who had married his aunt, who was also his cousin, and 
whose son ended up being his own grandfather. 

“Can a person marry his own aunt?” he asked, startled. 

“He not only can do that, a soldier answered him. “but we’re fighting this war against the priests 
so that a person can marry his own mother.” 

Two weeks later he deserted. He found Amaranta more withered than in his memory, more 
melancholy and shy, and now really turning the last corner of maturity, but more feverish than ever 
in the darkness of her bedroom and more challenging than ever in the aggressiveness of her 
resistance. “You’re a brute,” Amaranta would tell him as she was harried by his hounds. “You can’t 
do that to a poor aunt unless you have a special dispensation from the Pope.” Aureliano, Jose 
promised to go to Rome, he promised to go across Europe on his knees to kiss the sandals of the 
Pontiff just so that she would lower her drawbridge. 

“It’s not just that,” Amaranta retorted. “Any children will be born with the tail of a pig.” 

Aureliano Jose was deaf to all arguments. 

“I don’t care if they’re born as armadillos,” he begged. 

Early one morning, vanquished by the unbearable pain of repressed virility, he went to Catarino’s. 
He found a woman with flaccid breasts, affectionate and cheap, who calmed his stomach for some 
time. He tried to apply the treatment of disdain to Amaranta. He would see her on the porch 
working at the sewing machine, which she had learned to operate with admirable skill, and he would 
not even speak to her. Amaranta felt freed of a reef, and she herself did not understand why she 
started thinking again at that time about Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, why she remembered with 
such nostalgia the afternoons of Chinese checkers, and why she even desired him as the man in her 
bedroom. Aureliano, Jose did not realize how much ground he had lost on, the night he could no 



longer bear the farce of indifference and went back to Amaranta’s room. She rejected him with an 
inflexible and unmistakable determination, and she barred the door of her bedroom forever. 

A few months after the return of Aureliano Jose an exuberant woman perfumed with jasmine 
appeared at the house with a boy of five. She stated that he was the son of Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia and that she had brought him to Ursula to be baptized. No one doubted the origins of that 
nameless child: he looked exactly like the colonel at the time he was taken to see ice for the first 
time. The woman said that he had been born with his eyes open, looking at people with the 
judgment of an adult, and that she was frightened by his way of staring at things without blinking. 
“He’s identical,” Ursula said. “The only thing missing is for him to make chairs rock by simply 
looking at them.” They christened him Aureliano and with his mother’s last name, since the law did 
not permit a person to bear his father’s name until he had recognized him. General Moncada was 
the godfather. Although Amaranta insisted that he be left so that she could take over his upbringing, 
his mother was against it. Ursula at that time did not know about the custom of sending virgins to 
the bedrooms of soldiers in the same way that hens are turned loose with fine roosters, but in the 
course of that year she found out: nine more sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia were brought to 
the house to be baptized. The oldest, a strange dark boy with green eyes, who was not at all like his 
father’s family, was over ten years old. They brought children of all ages, all colors, but all males and 
all with a look of solitude that left no doubt as to the relationship. Only two stood out in the group. 
One, large for his age, made smithereens out of the flowerpots and china because his hands seemed 
to have the property of breaking everything they touched. The other was a blond boy with the same 
light eyes as his mother, whose hair had been left to grow long and curly like that of a woman. He 
entered the house with a great deal of familiarity, as if he had been raised there, and he went directly 
to a chest in Ursula’s bedroom and demanded, “I want the mechanical ballerina.” Ursula was 
startled. She opened the chest, searched among the ancient and dusty articles left from the days of 
Melqufades, and wrapped in a pair of stockings she found the mechanical ballerina that Pietro Crespi 
had brought to the house once and that everyone had forgotten about. In less than twelve years they 
baptized with the name Aureliano and the last name of the mother all the sons that the colonel had 
implanted up and down his theater of war: seventeen. At first Ursula would fill their pockets with 
money and Amaranta tried to have them stay. But they finally limited themselves to giving them 
presents and serving as godmothers. “We’ve done our duty by baptizing them,” Ursula would say, 
jotting down in a ledger the name and address of the mother and the place and date of birth of the 
child. “Aureliano needs well-kept accounts so that he can decide things when he comes back.” 
During lunch, commenting with General Moncada about that disconcerting proliferation, she 
expressed the desire for Colonel Aureliano Buendia to come back someday and gather all of his sons 
together in the house. 

“Don’t worry, dear friend,” General Moncada said enigmatically. “He’ll come sooner than you 

What General Moncada knew and what he did not wish to reveal at lunch was that Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia was already on his way to head up the most prolonged, radical, and bloody 
rebellion of all those he had started up till then. 

The situation again became as tense as it had been during the months that preceded the first war. 
The cockfights, instituted by the mayor himself, were suspended. Captain Aquiles Ricardo, the 
commander of the garrison, took over the exercise of municipal power. The Liberals looked upon 
him as a provocateur. “Something terrible is going to happen,” Ursula would say to Aureliano Jose. 
“Don’t go out into the street after six o’clock.” The entreaties were useless. Aureliano Jose, just like 
Arcadio in other times, had ceased to belong to her. It was as if his return home, the possibility of 
existing without concerning himself with everyday necessities, had awakened in him the lewd and 
lazy leanings of his uncle Jose Arcadio. His passion for Amaranta had been extinguished without 



leaving any scars. He would drift around, playing pool, easing his solitude with occasional women, 
sacking the hiding places where Ursula had forgotten her money. He ended up coming home only to 
change his clothes. “They’re all alike,” Ursula lamented. “At first they behave very well, they’re 
obedient and prompt and they don’t seem capable of killing a fly, but as soon as their beards appear 
they go to ruin.” Unlike Arcadio, who had never known his real origins, he found out that he was 
the son of Pilar Ternera, who had hung up a hammock so that he could take his siesta in her house. 
More than mother and son, they were accomplices in solitude. Pilar Ternera had lost the trail of all 
hope. Her laugh had taken on the tones of an organ, her breasts had succumbed to the tedium of 
endless caressing, her stomach and her thighs had been the victims of her irrevocable fate as a 
shared woman, but her heart grew old without bitterness. Fat, talkative, with the airs of a matron in 
disgrace, she renounced the sterile illusions of her cards and found peace and consolation in other 
people’s loves. In the house where Aureliano Jose took his siesta, the girls from the neighborhood 
would receive their casual lovers. “Lend me your room, Pilar,” they would simply say when they 
were already inside. “Of course,” Pilar would answer. And if anyone was present she would explain: 

“I’m happy knowing that people are happy in bed.” 

She never charged for the service. She never refused the favor, just as she never refused the 
countless men who sought her out, even in the twilight of her maturity, without giving her money or 
love and only occasionally pleasure. Her five daughters, who inherited a burning seed, had been lost 
on the byways of life since adolescence. Of the two sons she managed to raise, one died fighting in 
the forces of Colonel Aureliano Buendia and the other was wounded and captured at the age of 
fourteen when he tried to steal a crate of chickens in a town in the swamp. In a certain way, 
Aureliano Jose was the tall, dark man who had been promised her for half a century by the king of 
hearts, and like all men sent by the cards he reached her heart when he was already stamped with the 
mark of death. She saw it in the cards. 

“Don’t go out tonight,” she told him. “Stay and sleep here because Carmelita Montiel is getting 
tired of asking me to put her in your room.” 

Aureliano Jose did not catch the deep feeling of begging that was in the offer. 

“Tell her to wait for me at midnight” he said. He went to the theater, where a Spanish company 
was putting on The Dagger of the Fox, which was really Zorzilla’s play with the title changed by order 
of Captain Aquiles Ricardo, because the Liberals called the Conservatives Goths. Only when he 
handed in his ticket at the door did Aureliano Jose realize that Captain Aquiles Ricardo and two 
soldiers armed with rifles were searching the audience. 

“Be careful, captain,” Aureliano Jose warned him. “The man hasn’t been born yet who can lay 
hands on me.” The captain tried to search him forcibly and Aureliano Jose, who was unarmed, 
began to mn. The soldiers disobeyed the order to shoot. “He’s a Buendia,” one of them explained. 
Blind with rage, the captain then snatched away the rifle, stepped into the center of the street, and 
took aim.” 

“Cowards!” he shouted. “I only wish it was Colonel Aureliano Buendia.” 

Carmelita Montiel, a twenty-year-old virgin, had just bathed in orange-blossom water and was 
strewing rosemary leaves on Pilar Ternera’s bed when the shot rang out. Aureliano Jose had been 
destined to find with her the happiness that Amaranta had denied him, to have seven children, and 
to die in her arms of old age, but the bullet that entered his back and shattered his chest had been 
directed by a wrong interpretation of the cards. Captain Aquiles Ricardo, who was really the one 
destined to die that night, did indeed die, four hours before Aureliano Jose. As won as the shot was 
heard he was brought down by two simultaneous bullets whose origin was never established and a 
shout of many voices shook the night. 

“Long live the Liberal party! Long live Colonel Aureliano Buendia!” 



At twelve o’clock, when Aureliano, Jose had bled to death and Carmelita Montiel found that the 
cards showing her future were blank, more than four hundred men had filed past the theater and 
discharged their revolvers into the abandoned body of Captain Aquiles Ricardo. A patrol had to use 
a wheelbarrow to carry the body, which was heavy with lead and fell apart like a water-soaked loaf of 

Annoyed by the outrages of the regular army, General Jose Raquel Moncada used his political 
influence, put on his uniform again, and assumed the civil and military leadership of Macondo. He 
did not expect, however, that his conciliatory attitude would be able to prevent the inevitable. The 
news in September was contradictory. While the government announced that it was maintaining 
control throughout the country, the Liberals were receiving secret news of armed uprisings in the 
interior. The regime would not admit a state of war until it was proclaimed in a decree that had 
followed a court-martial which had condemned Colonel Aureliano Buendia to death in absentia. The 
first unit that captured him was ordered to carry the sentence out. “This means he’s come back,” 
Ursula said joyfully to General Moncada. But he himself knew nothing about it. 

Actually, Colonel Aureliano Buendia had been in the country for more than a month. He was 
preceded by conflicting rumors, supposed to be in the most distant places at the same time, and 
even General Moncada did not believe in his return until it was officially announced that he had 
seized two states on the coast. “Congratulations, dear friend,” he told Ursula, showing her the 
telegram. “You’ll soon have him here.” Ursula was worried then for the first time. “And what will 
you do?” she asked. General Moncada had asked himself that same question many times. 

“The same as he, my friend,” he answered. “I’ll do my duty.” 

At dawn on the first of October Colonel Aureliano Buendia attacked Macondo with a thousand 
well-armed men and the garrison received orders to resist to the end. At noon, while General 
Moncada was lunching with Ursula, a rebel cannon shot that echoed in the whole town blew the 
front of the municipal treasury to dust. “They’re as well armed as we are,” General Moncada sighed, 
“but besides that they’re fighting because they want to.” At two o’clock in the afternoon, while the 
earth trembled with the artillery fire from both sides, he took leave of Ursula with the certainty that 
he was fighting a losing battle. 

“I pray to God that you won’t have Aureliano in the house tonight,” he said. “If it does happen 
that way, give him an embrace for me, because I don’t expect ever to see him again.” 

That night he was captured when he tried to escape from Macondo, after writing a long letter to 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia in which he reminded him of their common aim to humanize the war 
and he wished him a final victory over the corruption of the militarists and the ambitions of the 
politicians in both parties. On the following day Colonel Aureliano Buendia had lunch with him in 
Ursula’s house, where he was being held until a revolutionary court-martial decided his fate. It was a 
friendly gathering. But while the adversaries forgot the war to remember things of the past, Ursula 
had the gloomy feeling that her son was an intruder. She had felt it ever since she saw him come in 
protected by a noisy military retinue, which turned the bedrooms inside out until they were 
convinced there was no danger. Colonel Aureliano Buendia not only accepted it but he gave strict 
orders that no one should come closer than ten feet, not even Ursula, while the members of his 
escort finished placing guards about the house. He was wearing an ordinary denim uniform with no 
insignia of any kind and high boots with spurs that were caked with mud and dried blood. On his 
waist he wore a holster with the flap open and his hand, which was always on the butt of the pistol, 
revealed the same watchful and resolute tension as his look. His head, with deep recessions in the 
hairline now, seemed to have been baked in a slow oven. His face, tanned by the salt of the 
Caribbean, had acquired a metallic hardness. He was preserved against imminent old age by a vitality 
that had something to do with the coldness of his insides. He was taller than when he had left, paler 
and bonier, and he showed the first symptoms of resistance to nostalgia. “Good Lord,” Ursula said 



to herself. “Now he looks like a man capable of anything.” He was. The Aztec shawl that he brought 
Amaranta, the remembrances he spoke of at lunch, the funny stories her told were simple leftovers 
from his humor of a different time. As soon as the order to bury the dead in a common grave was 
carried out, he assigned Colonel Roque Carnicero the minion of setting up courts-martial and he 
went ahead with the exhausting task of imposing radical reforms which would not leave a stone of 
the reestablished Conservative regime in place. “We have to get ahead of the politicians in the 
party,” he said to his aides. “When they open their eyes to reality they’ll find accomplished facts.” It 
was then that he decided to review the titles to land that went back a hundred years and he 
discovered the legalized outrages of his brother, Jose Arcadio. He annulled the registrations with a 
stroke of the pen. As a last gesture of courtesy, he left his affairs for an hour and visited Rebeca to 
bring her up to date on what he was determined to do. 

In the shadows of her house, the solitary widow who at one time had been the confidante of his 
repressed loves and whose persistence had saved his life was a specter out of the past. Encased in 
black down to her knuckles, with her heart turned to ash, she scarcely knew anything about the war. 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia had the impression that the phosphorescence of her bones was showing 
through her skin and that she moved in an atmosphere of Saint Elmo’s fire, in a stagnant air where 
one could still note a hidden smell of gunpowder. He began by advising her to moderate the rigor of 
her mourning, to ventilate the house, to forgive the world for the death of Jose Arcadio. But Rebeca 
was already beyond any vanity. After searching for it uselessly in the taste of earth, in, the perfumed 
letters from Pietro Crespi, in the tempestuous bed of her husband, she had found peace in that 
house where memories materialized through the strength of implacable evocation and walked like 
human beings through the cloistered rooms. Leaning back in her wicker rocking chair, looking at 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia as if he were the one who looked like a ghost out of the past, Rebeca 
was not even upset by the news that the lands usurped by Jose Arcadio would be returned to their 
rightful owners. 

“Whatever you decide will be done, Aureliano,” she sighed. “I always thought and now I have the 
proof that you’re a renegade.” 

The revision of the deeds took place at the same time as the summary courts-martial presided 
over by Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, which ended with the execution of all officers of the regular 
army who had been taken prisoner by the revolutionaries. The last court-martial was that of Jose 
Raquel Moncada. Ursula intervened. ‘”His government was the best we’ve ever had in Macondo,” 
she told Colonel Aureliano Buendia. “I don’t have to tell you anything about his good heart, about 
his affection for us, because you know better than anyone.” Colonel Aureliano Buendia gave her a 
disapproving look. 

“I can’t take over the job of administering justice,” he replied. “If you have something to say, tell 
it to the court-martial.” 

Ursula not only did that she also brought all of the mothers of the revolutionary officers who 
lived in Macondo to testify. One by one the old women who had been founders of the town, several 
of whom had taken part in the daring crossing of the mountains, praised the virtues of General 
Moncada. Ursula was the last in line. Her gloomy dignity, the weight of her name, the convincing 
vehemence of her declaration made the scale of justice hesitate for a moment. “You have taken this 
horrible game very seriously and you have done well because you are doing your duty,” she told the 
members of the court. “But don’t forget that as long as God gives us life we will still be mothers and 
no matter how revolutionary you may be, we have the right to pull down your pants and give you a 
whipping at the first sign of disrespect.” The court retired to deliberate as those words still echoed in 
the school that had been turned into a barracks. At midnight General Jose Raquel Moncada was 
sentenced to death. Colonel Aureliano Buendia, in spite of the violent recriminations of Ursula, 



refused to commute the sentence. A short while before dawn he visited the condemned man in the 
room used as a cell. 

“Remember, old friend,” he told him. “I’m not shooting you. It’s the revolution that’s shooting 

^ ?? 

General Moncada did not even get up from the cot when he saw him come in. 

“Go to hell, friend,” he answered. 

Until that moment, ever since his return. Colonel Aureliano Buendia had not given himself the 
opportunity to see him with his heart. He was startled to see how much he had aged, how his hands 
shook, and the rather punctilious conformity with which he awaited death, and then he felt a great 
disgust with himself, which he mingled with the beginnings of pity. 

“You know better than I,” he said, “that all courts-martial are farces and that you’re really paying 
for the crimes of other people, because this time we’re going to win the war at any price. Wouldn’t 
you have done the same in my place?” 

General Moncada, got up to clean his thick horn-rimmed glasses on his shirttail. “Probably,” he 
said. “But what worries me is not your shooting me, because after all, for people like us it’s a natural 
death.” He laid his glasses on the bed and took off his watch and chain. “What worries me,” he went 
on, “is that out of so much hatred for the military, out of fighting them so much and thinking about 
them so much, you’ve ended up as bad as they are. And no ideal in life is worth that much 
baseness.” He took off his wedding ring and the medal of the Virgin of Help and put them 
alongside his glasses and watch. 

“At this rate,” he concluded, “you’ll not only be the most despotic and bloody dictator in our 
history, but you’ll shoot my dear friend Ursula in an attempt to pacify your conscience.” 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia stood there impassively. General Moncada then gave him the glasses, 
medal, watch, and ring and he changed his tone. 

“But I didn’t send for you to scold you,” he said. “I wanted to ask you the favor of sending these 
things to my wife.” 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia put them in his pockets. 

“Is she still in Manaure?” 

“She’s still in Manaure,” General Moncada confirmed, “in the same house behind the church 
where you sent the letter.” 

“I’ll be glad to, Jose Raquel,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia said. 

When he went out into the blue air of the mist his face grew damp as on some other dawn in the 
past and only then did he realize that -he had ordered the sentence to be carried out in the courtyard 
and not at the cemetery wall. The firing squad, drawn up opposite the door, paid him the honors of 
a head of state. 

“They can bring him out now,” he ordered. 



Chapter 9 

COLONEL GERINELDO MARQUEZ was the first to perceive the emptiness of the war. In his position 
as civil and military leader of Macondo he would have telegraphic conversations twice a week with 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia. At first those exchanges would determine the course of a flesh-and- 
blood war, the perfectly defined outlines of which told them at any moment the exact spot -where it 
was and the prediction of its future direction. Although he never let himself be pulled into the area 
of confidences, not even by his closest friends. Colonel Aureliano Buendia still had at that time the 
familiar tone that made it possible to identify him at the other end of the wire. Many times he would 
prolong the talk beyond the expected limit and let them drift into comments of a domestic nature. 
Little by little, however, and as the war became more intense and widespread, his image was fading 
away into a universe of unreality. The characteristics of his speech were more and more uncertain, 
and they cam together and combined to form words that were gradually losing all meaning. Colonel 
Gerineldo Marquez limited himself then to just listening, burdened by the impression that he was in 
telegraphic contact with a stranger from another world. 

“I understand, Aureliano,” he would conclude on the key. “Long live the Liberal party!” 

He finally lost all contact with the war. What in other times had been a real activity, an irresistible 
passion of his youth, became a remote point of reference for him: an emptiness. His only refuge was 
Amaranta’s sewing room. He would visit her every afternoon. He liked to watch her hands as she 
curled frothy petticoat cloth in the machine that was kept in motion by Remedios the Beauty. They 
spent many hours without speaking, content with their reciprocal company, but while Amaranta was 
inwardly pleased in keeping the fire of his devotion alive, he was unaware of the secret designs of 
that indecipherable heart. When the news of his return reached her, Amaranta had been smothered 
by anxiety. But when she saw him enter the house in the middle of Colonel Aureliano Buendfa’s 
noisy escort and she saw how he had been mistreated by the rigors of exile, made old by age and 
oblivion, dirty with sweat and dust, smelling like a herd, ugly, with his left arm in a sling, she felt 
faint with disillusionment. “My God,” she thought. “This wasn’t the person I was waiting for.” On 
the following day, however, he came back to the house shaved and clean, with his mustache 
perfumed with lavender water and without the bloody sling. He brought her a prayerbook bound in 

“How strange men are,” she said, because she could not think of anything else to say. “They 
spend their lives fighting against priests and then give prayerbooks as gifts.” 

From that time on, even during the most critical days of the war, he visited her every afternoon. 
Many times, when Remedios the Beauty was not present, it was he who turned the wheel on the 
sewing machine. Amaranta felt upset by the perseverance, the loyalty, the submissiveness of that 
man who was invested with so much authority and who nevertheless took off his sidearm in the 
living room so that he could go into the sewing room without weapons. But for four years he kept 
repeating his love and she would always find a way to reject him without hurting him, for even 
though she had not succeeded in loving him she could no longer live without him. Remedios the 
Beauty, who seemed indifferent to everything and who was thought to be mentally retarded, was not 
insensitive to so much devotion and she intervened in Colonel Gerineldo Marquez’s favor. 
Amaranta suddenly discovered that the girl she had raised, who was just entering adolescence, was 
already the most beautiful creature that had even been seen in Macondo. She felt reborn in her heart 
the rancor that she had felt in other days for Rebeca, and begging God not to impel her into the 
extreme state of wishing her dead, she banished her from the sewing room. It was around that time 
that Colonel Gerineldo Marquez began to feel the boredom of the war. He summoned Inis reserves 



of persuasion, his broad and repressed tenderness, ready to give up for Amaranta a glory that had 
cost him the sacrifice of his best years. But he could not succeed in convincing her. One August 
afternoon, overcome by the unbearable weight of her own obstinacy, Amaranta locked herself in her 
bedroom to weep over her solitude unto death after giving her final answer to her tenacious suitor: 

“Let’s forget about each other forever,” she told him. “We’re too old for this sort of thing now.” 

Colonel Gerineldo Marquez had a telegraphic call from Colonel Aureliano Buendia that 
afternoon. It was a routine conversation which was not going to bring about any break in the 
stagnant war. At the end, Colonel Gerineldo Marquez looked at the desolate streets, the crystal water 
on the almond trees, and he found himself lost in solitude. 

“Aureliano,” he said sadly on the key, “it’s raining in Macondo.” 

There was a long silence on the line. Suddenly the apparatus jumped with the pitiless letters from 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia. 

“Don’t be a jackass, Gerineldo,” the signals said. “It’s natural for it to be raining in August.” 

They had not seen each other for such a long time that Colonel Gerineldo Marquez was upset by 
the aggressiveness of the reaction. Two months later, however, when Colonel Aureliano Buendia 
returned to Macondo, his upset was changed to stupefaction. Even Ursula was surprised at how 
much he had changed. He came with no noise, no escort, wrapped in a cloak in spite of the heat, 
and with three mistresses, whom he installed in the same house, where he spent most of his time 
lying in a hammock. He scarcely read the telegraphic dispatches that reported routine operations. 
On one occasion Colonel Gerineldo Marquez asked him for instructions for the evacuation of a 
spot on the border where there was a danger that the conflict would become an international affair. 

“Don’t bother me with trifles,” he ordered him. “Consult Divine Providence.” 

It was perhaps the most critical moment of the war. The Liberal landowners, who had supported 
the revolution in the beginning, had made secret alliances with the Conservative landowners in order 
to stop the revision of property titles. The politicians who supplied funds for the war from exile had 
Publicly repudiated the drastic aims of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, but even that withdrawal of 
authorization did not seem to bother him. He had not returned to reading his poetry, which filled 
more than five volumes and lay forgotten at the bottom of Inis trunk. At night or at siesta time he 
would call one of his women to his hammock and obtain a rudimentary satisfaction from her, and 
then he would sleep like a stone that was not concerned by the slightest indication of worry. Only he 
knew at that time that his confused heart was condemned to uncertainty forever. At first, intoxicated 
by the glory of his return, by his remarkable victories, he had peeped into the abyss of greatness. He 
took pleasure in keeping by his right hand the Duke of Marlborough, his great teacher in the art of 
war, whose attire of skins and tiger claws aroused the respect of adults and the awe of children. It 
was then that he decided that no human being, not even Ursula, could come closer to him than ten 
feet. In the center of the chalk circle that his aides would draw wherever he stopped, and which only 
he could enter, he would decide with brief orders that had no appeal the fate of the world. The first 
time that he was in Manaure after the shooting of General Moncada, he hastened to fulfill his 
victim’s last wish and the widow took the glasses, the medal, the watch, and the ring, but she would 
not let him in the door. 

“You can’t come in, colonel,” she told him. “You may be in command of your war, but I’m in 
command of my house.” 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia did not show any sign of anger, but his spirit only calmed down when 
his bodyguard had sacked the widow’s house and reduced it to ashes. “Watch out for your heart, 
Aureliano,” Colonel Gerineldo Marquez would say to him then. “You’re rotting alive.” About that 
time he called together a second assembly of the principal rebel commanders. He found all types: 
idealists, ambitious people, adventurers, those with social resentments, even common criminals. 
There was even a former Conservative functionary who had taken refuge in the revolt to escape a 



judgment for misappropriation of funds. Many of them did not even know why they were fighting 
in the midst of that motley crowd, whose differences of values were on the verge of causing an 
internal explosion, one gloomy authority stood out: General Te6filo Vargas. He was a full-blooded 
Indian, untamed, illiterate, and endowed with quiet wiles and a messianic vocation that aroused a 
demented fanaticism in his men. Colonel Aureliano Buendia called the meeting with the aim of 
unifying the rebel command against the maneuvers of the politicians. General Teofilo Vargas came 
forward with his intentions: in a few hours he shattered the coalition of better-qualified commanders 
and took charge of the main command. “He’s a wild beast worth watching,” Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia told his officers. “That man is more dangerous to us than the Minister of War.” Then a 
very young captain who had always been outstanding for his timidity raised a cautious index finger. 

“It’s quite simple, colonel,” he proposed. “He has to be killed.” 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia was not alarmed by the coldness of the proposition but by the way in 
which, by a fraction of a second, it had anticipated his own thoughts. 

“Don’t expect me to give an order like that,” he said. 

He did not give it, as a matter of fact. But two weeks later General Teofilo Vargas was cut to bits 
by machetes in an ambush and Colonel Aureliano Buendia assumed the main command. The same 
night that his authority was recognized by all the rebel commands, he woke up in a fright, calling for 
a blanket. An inner coldness which shattered his bones and tortured him even in the heat of the sun 
would not let him sleep for several months, until it became a habit. The intoxication of power began 
to break apart under waves of discomfort. Searching for a cure against the chill, he had the young 
officer who had proposed the murder of General Teofilo Vargas shot. His orders were being carried 
out even before they were given, even before he thought of them, and they always went much 
beyond what he would have dared have them do. Lost in the solitude of his immense power, he 
began to lose direction. He was bothered by the people who cheered him in neighboring villages, 
and he imagined that they were the same cheers they gave the enemy. Everywhere he met 
adolescents who looked at him with his own eyes, who spoke to him with his own voice, who 
greeted him with the same mistrust with which he greeted them, and who said they were his sons. 
He felt scattered about, multiplied, and more solitary than ever. He was convinced that his own 
officers were lying to him. He fought with the Duke of Marlborough. “The best friend a person 
has,” he would say at that time, “is one who has just died.” He was weary of the uncertainty, of the 
vicious circle of that eternal war that always found him in the same place, but always older, wearier, 
even more in the position of not knowing why, or how, or even when. There was always someone 
outside of the chalk circle. Someone who needed money, someone who had a son with whooping 
cough, or someone who wanted to go off and sleep forever because he could not stand the shit taste 
of the war in his mouth and who, nevertheless, stood at attention to inform him: “Everything 
normal, colonel.” And normality was precisely the most fearful part of that infinite war: nothing ever 
happened. Alone, abandoned by his premonitions, fleeing the chill that was to accompany him until 
death, he sought a last refuge in Macondo in the warmth of his oldest memories. His indolence was 
so serious that when they announced the arrival of a commission from his party that was authorized 
to discuss the stalemate of the war, he rolled over in his hammock without completely waking up. 

“Take them to the whores,” he said. 

They were six lawyers in frock coats and top hats who endured the violent November sun with 
stiff stoicism. Ursula put them up in her house. They spent the greater part of the day closeted in the 
bedroom in hermetic conferences and at dusk they asked for an escort and some accordion players 
and took over Catarino’s store. “Leave them alone,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia ordered. “After all, 
I know what they want.” At the beginning of December the long-awaited interview, which many had 
foreseen as an interminable argument, was resolved in less than an hour. 



In the hot parlor, beside the specter of the pianola shrouded in a white sheet, Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia did not sit down that time inside the chalk circle that his aides had drawn. He sat in a chair 
between his political advisers and, wrapped in his woolen blanket, he listened in silence to the brief 
proposals of the emissaries. They asked first that he renounce the revision of property titles in order 
to get back the support of the Liberal landowners. They asked, secondly, that he renounce the fight 
against clerical influence in order to obtain the support of the Catholic masses. They asked, finally, 
that he renounce the aim of equal rights for natural and illegitimate children in order to preserve the 
integrity of the home. 

“That means,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia said, smiling when the reading was over, “that all 
we’re fighting for is power.” 

“They’re tactical changes,” one of the delegates replied. “Right now the main thing is to broaden 
the popular base of the war. Then we’ll have another look.” 

One of Colonel Aureliano Buendla’s political advisers hastened to intervene. 

“It’s a contradiction” he said. “If these changes are good, it means that the Conservative regime 
is good. If we succeed in broadening the popular base of the war with them, as you people say, it 
means that the regime his a broad popular base. It means, in short, that for almost twenty years 
we’ve been fighting against the sentiments of the nation.” 

He was going to go on, but Colonel Aureliano Buendia stopped him with a signal. “Don’t waste 
your time, doctor.” he said. “The important thing is that from now on we’ll be fighting only for 
power.” Still smiling, he took the documents the delegates gave him and made ready to sign them. 

“Since that’s the way it is,” he concluded, “we have no objection to accepting.” 

His men looked at one another in consternation. “Excuse me, colonel,” Colonel Gerineldo 
Marquez said softly, “but this is a betrayal.” 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia held the inked pen in the air and discharged the whole weight of his 
authority on him. 

“Surrender your weapons,” he ordered. 

Colonel Gerineldo Marquez stood up and put his sidearms on the table. 

“Report to the barracks,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia ordered him. “Put yourself at the 
disposition of the revolutionary court.” 

Then he signed the declaration and gave the sheets of paper to the emissaries, saying to them: 

“Here an your papers, gentlemen. I hope you can get some advantage out of them.” 

Two days later. Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, accused of high treason, was condemned to death. 
Lying in his hammock, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was insensible to the pleas for clemency. On the 
eve of the execution, disobeying the order not to bother him, Ursula visited him in his bedroom. 
Encased in black, invested with a rare solemnity, she stood during the three minutes of the 
interview. “I know that you’re going to shoot Gerineldo,” she said calmly, “and that I can’t do 
anything to stop it. But I give you one warning: as soon as I see his body I swear to you by the 
bones of my father and mother, by the memory of Jose Arcadio Buendia, I swear to you before God 
that I will drag you out from wherever you’re hiding and kill you with my own two hands.” Before 
leaving the room, without waiting for any reply, she concluded: 

“It’s the same as if you’d been born with the tail of a pig.” 

During that interminable night while Colonel Gerineldo Marquez thought about his dead 
afternoons in Amaranta’s sewing room. Colonel Aureliano Buendia scratched for many hours trying 
to break the hard shell of his solitude. His only happy moments, since that remote afternoon when 
his father had taken him to see ice, had taken place in his silver workshop where he passed the time 
putting little gold fishes together. He had had to start thirty-two wars and had had to violate all of 
his pacts with death and wallow like a hog in the dungheap of glory in order to discover the 
privileges of simplicity almost forty years late. 



At dawn, worn out by the tormented vigil, he appeared in the cell an hour before the execution. 
“The farce is over, old friend,” he said to Colonel Gerineldo Marquez. “Let’s get out of here before 
the mosquitoes in here execute you.” Colonel Gerineldo Marquez could not repress the disdain that 
was inspired in him by that attitude. 

“No, Aureliano,” he replied. “I’d rather be dead than see you changed into a bloody tyrant.” 

“You won’t see me,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia said. “Put on your shoes and help me get this 
shitty war over with.” 

When he said it he did not know that it was easier to start a war than to end one. It took him 
almost a year of fierce and bloody effort to force the government to propose conditions of peace 
favorable to the rebels and another year to convince his own partisans of the convenience of 
accepting them. He went to inconceivable extremes of cruelty to put down the rebellion of his own 
officers, who resisted and called for victory, and he finally relied on enemy forces to make them 

He was never a greater soldier than at that time. The certainty that he was finally fighting for his 
own liberation and not for abstract ideals, for slogans that politicians could twist left and right 
according to the circumstances, filled him with an ardent enthusiasm. Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, 
who fought for defeat with as much conviction and loyalty as he had previously fought for victory, 
reproached him for his useless temerity. “Don’t worry,” he would say, smiling. “Dying is much more 
difficult than one imagines.” In his case it was tme. The certainty that his day was assigned gave him 
a mysterious immunity, an immortality or a fixed period that made him invulnerable to the risks of 
war and in the end permitted him to win a defeat that was much more difficult, much more bloody 
and costly than victory. 

In almost twenty years of war. Colonel Aureliano Buendia had been at his house many times, but 
the state of urgency with which he always arrived, the military retinue that accompanied him 
everywhere, the aura of legend that glowed about his presence and of which even Ursula was aware, 
changed him into a stranger in the end. The last time that he was in Macondo and took a house for 
his three concubines, he was seen in his own house only on two or three occasions when he had the 
time to accept an invitation to dine. Remedios the Beauty and the twins, born during the middle of 
the war, scarcely knew him. Amaranta could not reconcile her image of the brother who had spent 
his adolescence making little gold fishes with that of the mythical warrior who had placed a distance 
of ten feet between himself and the rest of humanity. But when the approach of the armistice 
became known and they thought that he would return changed back into a human being, delivered 
at last for the hearts of his own people, the family feelings, dormant for such a long time, were 
reborn stronger than ever. 

“We’ll finally have a man in the house again,” Ursula said. 

Amaranta was the first to suspect that they had lost him forever. One week before the armistice, 
when he entered the house without an escort, preceded by two barefoot orderlies who deposited on 
the porch the saddle from the mule and the tmnk of poetry, all that was left of his former imperial 
baggage, she saw him pass by the sewing room and she called to him. Colonel Aureliano Buendia 
had trouble recognizing her. 

“It’s Amaranta,” she said good-humoredly, happy at his return, and she showed him the hand 
with the black bandage. “Look.” 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia smiled at her the same way as when he had first seen her with the 
bandage on that remote morning when he had come back to Macondo condemned to death. 

“How awful,” he said, “the way time passes!” 

The regular army had to protect the house. He arrived amid insults, spat upon, accused of having 
accelerated the war in order to sell it for a better price. He was trembling with fever and cold and his 
armpits were studded with sores again. Six months before, when she had heard talk about the 



armistice, Ursula had opened up and swept out the bridal chamber and had burned myrrh in the 
corners, thinking that he would come back ready to grow old slowly among Remedios’ musty dolls. 
But actually, during the last two years he had paid his final dues to life, including growing old. When 
he passed by the silver shop, which Ursula had prepared with special diligence, he did not even 
notice that the keys were in the lock. He did not notice the minute, tearing destruction that time had 
wreaked on the house and that, after such a prolonged absence, would have looked like a disaster to 
any man who had kept his memories alive. He was not pained by the peeling of the whitewash on 
the walls or the dirty, cottony cobwebs in the corners or the dust on the begonias or the veins left 
on the beams by the termites or the moss on the hinges or any of the insidious traps that nostalgia 
offered him. He sat down on the porch, wrapped in his blanket and with his boots still on, as if only 
waiting for it to clear, and he spent the whole afternoon watching it rain on the begonias. Ursula 
understood then that they would not have him home for long. “If it’s not the war,” she thought, “it 
can only be death.” It was a supposition that was so neat, so convincing that she identified it as a 

That night, at dinner, the supposed Aureliano Segundo broke his bread with his right hand and 
drank his soup with his left. His twin brother, the supposed Jose Arcadio Segundo, broke his bread 
with his left hand and drank his soup with his right. So precise was their coordination that they did 
not look like two brothers sitting opposite each other but like a trick with mirrors. The spectacle that 
the twins had invented when they became aware that they were equal was repeated in honor of the 
new arrival. But Colonel Aureliano Buendia did not notice it. He seemed so alien to everything that 
he did not even notice Remedios the Beauty as she passed by naked on her way to her bedroom. 
Ursula was the only one who dared disturb Iris, abstraction. 

“If you have to go away again,” she said halfway through dinner, “at least try to remember how 
we were tonight.” 

Then Colonel Aureliano Buendia realized, without surprise, that Ursula was the only human 
being who had succeeded in penetrating his misery, and for the first time in many years he looked 
her in the face. Her skin was leathery, her teeth decayed, her hair faded and colorless, and her look 
frightened. He compared her with the oldest memory that he had of her, the afternoon when he had 
the premonition that a pot of boiling soup was going to fall off the table, and he found her broken 
to pieces. In an instant he discovered the scratches, the welts, the sores, the ulcers, and the scan that 
had been left on her by more than half a century of daily life, and he saw that those damages did not 
even arouse a feeling of pity in him. Then he made one last effort to search in his heart for the place 
where his affection had rotted away and he could not find it. On another occasion, he felt at least a 
confused sense of shame when he found the smell of Ursula on his own skin, and more than once 
he felt her thoughts interfering with his. But all of that had been wiped out by the war. Even 
Remedios, his wife, at that moment was a hazy image of someone who might have been his daugh¬ 
ter. The countless women he had known on the desert of love and who had spread his seed all along 
the coast had left no trace in his feelings. Most of them had come into his room in the dark and had 
left before dawn, and on the following day they were nothing but a touch of fatigue in his bodily 
memory. The only affection that prevailed against time and the war was that which he had felt for 
his brother Jose Arcadio when they both were children, and it was not based on love but on 

“I’m sorry,” he excused himself from Ursula’s request. “It’s just that the war has done away with 

During the following days he busied himself destroying all trace of his passage through the world. 
He stripped the silver shop until all that were left were impersonal objects, he gave his clothes away 
to the orderlies, and he buried his weapons in the courtyard with the same feeling of penance with 
which his father had buried the spear that had killed Prudencio Aguilar. He kept only one pistol with 



one bullet in it. Ursula did not intervene. The only time she dissuaded him was when he was about 
to destroy the daguerreotype of Remedios that was kept in the parlor lighted by an eternal lamp. 
“That picture stopped belonging to you a long time ago,” she told him. “It’s a family relic.” On the 
eve of the armistice, when no single object that would let him be remembered was left in the house, 
he took the trunk of poetry to the bakery when Santa Sofia de la Piedad was making ready to light 
the oven. 

“Light it with this,” he told her, handing her the first roll of yellowish papers. “It will, burn better 
because they’re very old things.” 

Santa Sofia de la Piedad, the silent one, the condescending one, the one who never contradicted 
anyone, not even her own children, had the impression that it was a forbidden act. 

“They’re important papers,” she said. 

“Nothing of the sort,” the colonel said. “They’re things that a person writes to himself.” 

“In that case,” she said, “you burn them, colonel.” 

He not only did that, but he broke up the trunk with a hatchet and threw the pieces into the fire. 
Hours before, Pilar Ternera had come to visit him. After so many years of not seeing her, Colonel 
Aureliano Buendfa was startled at how old and fat she had become and how much she had lost of 
the splendor of her laugh, but he was also startled at the depths she had reached in her reading of 
the cards. “Watch out for your mouth,” she told him, and he wondered whether the other time she 
had told him that during the height of his glory it had not been a surprisingly anticipated vision of 
his fate. A short time later, when his personal physician finished removing his sores, he asked him, 
without showing any particular interest, where the exact location of his heart was. The doctor 
listened with his stethoscope and then painted a circle on his cheat with a piece of cotton dipped in 

The Tuesday of the armistice dawned warm and rainy. Colonel Aureliano Buendia appeared in 
the kitchen before five o’clock and had his usual black coffee without sugar. “You came into the 
world on a day like this,” Ursula told him. “Everybody was amazed at your open eyes.” He did not 
pay any attention because he was listening to the forming of the troops, the sound of the comets, 
and the voices of command that were shattering the dawn. Even though after so many years of war 
they should have sounded familiar to him this time he felt the same weakness in his knees and the 
same tingling in his skin that he had felt in his youth in the presence of a naked woman. He thought 
confusedly, finally captive in a trap of nostalgia, that perhaps if he had married her he would have 
been a man without war and without glory, a nameless artisan, a happy animal. That tardy shudder 
which had not figured in his forethought made his breakfast bitter. At seven in the morning, when 
Colonel Gerineldo Marquez came to fetch him, in the company of a group of rebel officers, he 
found him more taciturn than ever, more pensive and solitary. Ursula tried to throw a new wrap 
over his shoulders. “What will the government think,” she told him. “They’ll figure that you’ve 
surrendered because you didn’t have anything left to buy a cloak with.” But he would not accept it. 
When he was at the door, he let her put an old felt hat of Jose Arcadio Buendia’s on his head. 

“Aureliano,” Ursula said to him then, “Promise me that if you find that it’s a bad hour for you 
there that you’ll think of your mother.” 

He gave her a distant smile, raising his hand with all his fingers extended, and without saying a 
word he left the house and faced the shouts, insults, and blasphemies that would follow him until he 
left the town. Ursula put the bar on the door, having decided not to take it down for the rest of her 
life. “We’ll rot in here,” she thought. “We’ll turn to ashes in this house without men, but we won’t 
give this miserable town the pleasure of seeing us weep.” She spent the whole morning looking for a 
memory of her son in the most hidden corners, but she could find none. 

The ceremony took place fifteen miles from Macondo in the shade of a gigantic ceiba tree around 
which the town of Neerlandia would be founded later. The delegates from the government and the 



party and the commission of the rebels who were laying down their arms were served by a noisy 
group of novices in white habits who looked like a flock of doves that had been frightened by the 
rain. Colonel Aureliano Buendia arrived on a muddy mule. He had not shaved, more tormented by 
the pain of the sores than by the great failure of his dreams, for he had reached the end of all hope, 
beyond glory and the nostalgia of glory. In accordance with his arrangements there was no music, 
no fireworks, no pealing bells, no shouts of victory, or any other manifestation that might alter the 
mournful character of the armistice. An itinerant photographer who took the only picture of him 
that could have been preserved was forced to smash his plates without developing them. 

The ceremony lasted only the time necessary to sign the documents. Around the rustic table 
placed in the center of a patched circus tent where the delegates sat were the last officers who were 
faithful to Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Before taking the signatures, the personal delegate of the 
president of the republic tried to read the act of surrender aloud, but Colonel Aureliano Buendia was 
against it. “Let’s not waste time on formalities,” he said and prepared to sign the papers without 
reading them. One of his officers then broke the soporific silence of the tent. 

“Colonel,” he said, “please do us the favor of not being the first to sign.” 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia acceded. When the documents went all around the table, in the midst 
of a silence that was so pure that one could have deciphered the signatures from the scratching of 
the pen on the paper, the first line was still blank. Colonel Aureliano Buendia prepared to fill it. 

“Colonel,” another of his officers said, “there’s still time for everything to come out right.” 

Without changing his expression, Colonel Aureliano Buendia signed the first copy. He had not 
finished signing the last one when a rebel colonel appeared in the doorway leading a mule carrying 
two chests. In spite of his entire youth he had a dry look and a patient expression. He was the 
treasurer of the revolution in the Macondo region. He had made a difficult journey of six days, 
pulling along the mule, who was dying of hunger, in order to arrive at the armistice on time. With an 
exasperating parsimony he took down the chests, opened them, and placed on the table, one by one, 
seventy-two gold bricks, Everyone had forgotten about the existence of that fortune. In the disorder 
of the past year, when the central command fell apart and the revolution degenerated into a bloody 
rivalry of leaders, it was impossible to determine any responsibility. The gold of the revolution, 
melted into blocks that were then covered with baked clay, was beyond all control. Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia had the seventy-two gold bricks included in the inventory of surrender and 
closed the ceremony without allowing any speeches. The filthy adolescent stood opposite him, 
looking into his eyes with his own calm, syrup-colored eyes. 

“Something else?” Colonel Aureliano Buendia asked him. 

The young colonel tightened his mouth. 

“The receipt,” he said. 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia wrote it out in his own hand. Then he had a glass of lemonade and a 
piece of biscuit that the novices were passing around and retired to a field tent which had been 
prepared for him in case he wished to rest. There he took off his shirt, sat on the edge of the cot, 
and at three-fifteen in the afternoon took his pistol and shot himself in the iodine circle that his 
personal physician had painted on his chest. At that moment in Macondo Ursula took the cover off 
the pot of milk on the stove, wondering why it was taking so long to boil, and found it full of 

“They’ve killed Aureliano,” she exclaimed. 

She looked toward the courtyard, obeying a habit of her solitude, and then she saw Jose Arcadio 
Buendia, soaking wet and sad in the rain and much older than when he had died. “They shot him in 
the back,” Ursula said more precisely, “and no one was charitable enough to close his eyes.” At dusk 
through her tears she saw the swift and luminous disks that crossed the sky like an exhalation and 
she thought that it was a signal of death. She was still under the chestnut tree, sobbing at her 



husband’s knees, when they brought in Colonel Aureliano Buendla, wrapped in a blanket that was 
stiff with dry blood and with his eyes open in rage. 

He was out of danger. The bullet had followed such a neat path that the doctor was able to put a 
cord soaked in iodine in through the chest and withdraw it from the back. “That was my 
masterpiece,” he said with satisfaction. “It was the only point where a bullet could pass through 
without harming any vital organ.” Colonel Aureliano Buendla saw himself surrounded by charitable 
novices who intoned desperate psalms for the repose of his soul and then he was sorry that he had 
not shot himself in the roof of the mouth as he had considered doing if only to mock the prediction 
of Pilar Ternera. 

“If I still had the authority,” he told the doctor, “I’d have you shot out of hand. Not for having 
saved my life but for having made a fool of me.” 

The failure of his death brought back his lost prestige in a few hours. The same people who 
invented the story that he had sold the war for a room with walls made of gold bricks defined the 
attempt at suicide as an act of honor and proclaimed him a martyr. Then, when he rejected the 
Order of Merit awarded him by the president of the republic, even his most bitter enemies filed 
through the room asking him to withdraw recognition of the armistice and to start a new war. The 
house was filled with gifts meant as amends. Impressed finally by the massive support of his former 
comrades in arms. Colonel Aureliano Buendla did not put aside the possibility of pleasing them. On 
the contrary, at a certain moment he seemed so enthusiastic with the idea of a new war that Colonel 
Gerineldo Marquez thought that he was only waiting for a pretext to proclaim it. The pretext was 
offered, in fact, when the president of the republic refused to award any military pensions to former 
combatants, Liberal or Conservative, until each case was examined by a special commission and the 
award approved by the congress. “That’s an outrage,” thundered Colonel Aureliano Buendla. 
“They’ll die of old age waiting for the mail to come.” For the first time he left the rocker that Ursula 
had bought for his convalescence, and, walking about the bedroom, he dictated a strong message to 
the president of the republic. In that telegram which was never made public, he denounced the first 
violation of the Treaty of Neerlandia and threatened to proclaim war to the death if the assignment 
of pensions was not resolved within two weeks. His attitude was so just that it allowed him to hope 
even for the support of former Conservative combatants. But the only reply from the government 
was the reinforcement of the military guard that had been placed at the door of his house with the 
pretext of protecting him, and the prohibition of all types of visits. Similar methods were adopted all 
through the country with other leaders who bore watching. It was an operation that was so timely, 
drastic, and effective that two months after the armistice, when Colonel Aureliano Buendla had 
recovered, his most dedicated conspirators were dead or exiled or had been assimilated forever into 
public administration. 

Colonel Aureliano Buendla left his room in December and it was sufficient for him to look at the 
porch in order not to think about war again. With a vitality that seemed impossible at her age, Ursula 
had rejuvenated the house again. “Now they’re going to see who I am,” she said when she saw that 
her son was going to live. “There won’t be a better, more open house in all the world than this 
madhouse.” She had it washed and painted, changed the furniture, restored the garden and planted 
new flowers, and opened doors and windows so that the dazzling light of summer would penetrate 
even into the bedrooms. She decreed an end to the numerous superimposed periods of mourning 
and she herself exchanged her rigorous old gowns for youthful clothing. The music of the pianola 
again made the house merry. When she heard it, Amaranta thought of Pietro Crespi, his evening 
gardenia, and his smell of lavender, and in the depths of her withered heart a clean rancor flourished, 
purified by time. One afternoon when she was trying to put the parlor in order, Ursula asked for the 
help of the soldiers who were guarding the house. The young commander of the guard gave them 
permission. Little by little, Ursula began assigning them new chores. She invited them to eat, gave 



them clothing and shoes, and taught them how to read and write. When the government withdrew 
the guard, one of them continued living in the house and was in her service for many years. On New 
Year’s Day, driven mad by rebuffs from Remedios the Beauty, the young commander of the guard 
was found dead under her window. 



Chapter 10 

YEARS LATER on his deathbed Aureliano Segundo would remember the rainy afternoon in June 
when he went into the bedroom to meet his first son. Even though the child was languid and weepy, 
with no mark of a Buendia, he did not have to think twice about naming him. 

“We’ll call him Jose Arcadio,” he said. 

Fernanda del Carpio, the beautiful woman he had married the year before, agreed. Ursula, on the 
other hand, could not conceal a vague feeling of doubt. Throughout the long history of the family 
the insistent repetition of names had made her draw some conclusions that seemed to be certain. 
While the Aurelianos were withdrawn, but with lucid minds, the Jose Arcadios were impulsive and 
enterprising, but they were marked with a tragic sign. The only cases that were impossible to classify 
were those of Jose Arcadio Segundo and Aureliano Segundo. They were so much alike and so 
mischievous during childhood that not even Santa Sofia de la Piedad could tell them apart. On the 
day of their christening Amaranta put bracelets on them with their respective names and dressed 
them in different colored clothing marked with each one’s initials, but when they began to go to 
school they decided to exchange clothing and bracelets and call each other by opposite names. The 
teacher, Melchor Escalona, used to knowing Jose Arcadio Segundo by his green shirt, went out of 
his mind when he discovered that the latter was wearing Aureliano Segundo’s bracelet and that the 
other one said, nevertheless, that his name was Aureliano Segundo in spite of the fact that he was 
wearing the white shirt and the bracelet with Jose Arcadio Segundo’s name. From then on he was 
never sure who was who. Even when they grew up and life made them different. Ursula still 
wondered if they themselves might not have made a mistake in some moment of their intricate game 
of confusion and had become changed forever. Until the beginning of adolescence they were two 
synchronized machines. They would wake up at the same time, have the urge to go to the bathroom 
at the same time, suffer the same upsets in health, and they even dreamed about the same things. In 
the house, where it was thought that they coordinated their actions with a simple desire to confuse, 
no one realized what really was happening until one day when Santa Sofia de la Piedad gave one of 
them a glass of lemonade and as soon as he tasted it the other one said that it needed sugar. Santa 
Sofia de la Piedad, who had indeed forgotten to put sugar in the lemonade, told Ursula about it. 
“That’s what they’re all like,” she said without surprise, “crazy from birth.” In time things became 
less disordered. The one who came out of the game of confusion with the name of Aureliano 
Segundo grew to monumental size like his grandfathers, and the one who kept the name of Jose 
Arcadio Segundo grew to be bony like the colonel, and the only thing they had in common was the 
family’s solitary air. Perhaps it was that crossing of stature, names, and character that made Ursula 
suspect that they had been shuffled like a deck of cards since childhood. 

The decisive difference was revealed in the midst of the war, when Jose Arcadio Segundo asked 
Colonel Gerineldo Marquez to let him see an execution. Against Ursula’s better judgment his wishes 
were satisfied. Aureliano Segundo, on the other hand, shuddered at the mere idea of witnessing an 
execution. He preferred to stay home. At the age of twelve he asked Ursula what was in the locked 
room. “Papers,” she answered. “Melquiades’ books and the strange tilings that he wrote in his last 
years.” Instead of calming him, the answer increased his curiosity. He demanded so much, promised 
with such insistence that he would not mistreat the things, that Ursula, gave him the keys. No one 
had gone into the room again since they had taken Melquiades’ body out and had put on the door a 
padlock whose parts had become fused together with rust. But when Aureliano Segundo opened the 
windows a familiar light entered that seemed accustomed to lighting the room every day and there 
was not the slightest trace of dust or cobwebs, with everything swept and clean, better swept and 



cleaner than on the day of the burial, and the ink had not dried up in the inkwell nor had oxidation 
diminished the shine of the metals nor had the embers gone out under the water pipe where Jose 
Arcadio Buendia had vaporized mercury. On the shelves were the books bound in a cardboard-like 
material, pale, like tanned human skin, and the manuscripts were intact. In spite of the room’s 
having been shut up for many years, the air seemed fresher than in the rest of the house. Everything 
was so recent that several weeks later, when Ursula went into the room with a pail of water and a 
brush to wash the floor, there was nothing for her to do. Aureliano Segundo was deep in the reading 
of a book. Although it had no cover and the title did not appear anywhere, the boy enjoyed the story 
of a woman who sat at a table and ate nothing but kernels of rice, which she picked up with a pin, 
and the story of the fisherman who borrowed a weight for his net from a neighbor and when he 
gave him a fish in payment later it had a diamond in its stomach, and the one about the lamp that 
fulfilled wishes and about flying carpets. Surprised, he asked Ursula if all that was true and she 
answered him that it was, that many years ago the gypsies had brought magic lamps and flying mats 
to Macondo. 

“What’s happening,” she sighed, “is that the world is slowly coming to an end and those things 
don’t come here any more.” 

When he finished the book, in which many of the stories had no endings because there were 
pages missing, Aureliano Segundo set about deciphering the manuscripts. It was impossible. The 
letters looked like clothes hung out to dry on a line and they looked more like musical notation than 
writing. One hot noontime, while he was poring over the, manuscripts, he sensed that he was not 
alone in the room. Against the light from the window, sitting with his hands on Inis knees, was 
Melquiades. He was under forty years of age. He was wearing the same old-fashioned vest and the 
hat that looked like a raven’s wings, and across Inis pale temples there flowed the grease from his hair 
that had been melted by the heat, just as Aureliano and Jose Arcadio had seen him when they were 
children. Aureliano Segundo recognized him at once, because that hereditary memory had been 
transmitted from generation to generation and had come to him through the memory of his 

“Hello,” Aureliano Segundo said. 

“Hello, young man,” said Melquiades. 

From then on, for several years, they saw each other almost every afternoon. Melquiades talked 
to him about the world, tried to infuse him with his old wisdom, but he refused to translate the 
manuscripts. “No one must know their meaning until he has reached one hundred years of age,” he 
explained. Aureliano kept those meetings secret forever. On one occasion he felt that his private 
world had fallen apart because Ursula came in when Melquiades was in the room. But she did not 
see him. 

“Who were you talking to?” she asked him. 

“Nobody,” Aureliano Segundo said. 

“That’s what your great-grandfather did,” Ursula, said. “He used to talk to himself too.” 

Jose Arcadio Segundo, in the meantime, had satisfied his wish to see a shooting. For the rest of 
his life he would remember the livid flash of the six simultaneous shots-and the echo of the 
discharge as it broke against the hills and the sad smile and perplexed eyes of the man being shot, 
who stood erect while his shirt became soaked with blood, and who was still smiling even when they 
untied him from the post and put him in a box filled with quicklime. “He’s alive,” he thought. 
“They’re going to bury him alive.” It made such an impression on him that from then on he 
detested military practices and war, not because of the executions but because of the horrifying 
custom of burying the victims alive. No one knew then exactly when he began to ring the bells in 
the church tower and assist Father Antonio Isabel, the successor to “The Pup,” at mass, and take 
can of the fighting cocks in the courtyard of the parish house. When Colonel Gerineldo Marquez 



found out he scolded him strongly for learning occupations repudiated by the Liberals. “The fact is,” 
he answered, “I think I’ve turned out to be a Conservative.” He believed it as if it had been 
determined by fate. Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, scandalized, told Ursula about it. 

“It’s better that way,” she approved. “Let’s hope that he becomes a priest so that God will finally 
come into this house.” 

It was soon discovered that Father Antonio Isabel was preparing him for his first communion. 
He was teaching him the catechism as he shaved the necks of his roosters. He explained to him with 
simple examples, as he put the brooding hens into their nests, how it had occurred to God on the 
second day of creation that chickens would be formed inside of an egg. From that time on the 
parish priest began to show the signs of senility that would lead him to say years later that the devil 
had probably won his rebellion against God, and that he was the one who sat on the heavenly 
throne, without revealing his true identity in order to trap the unwary. Warmed up by the persistence 
of his mentor, in a few months Jose Arcadio Segundo came to be as adept in theological tricks used 
to confuse the devil as he was skilled in the tricks of the cockpit. Amaranta made him a linen suit 
with a collar and tie, bought him a pair of white shoes, and engraved his name in gilt letters on the 
ribbon of the candle. Two nights before the first communion, Father Antonio Isabel closeted 
himself with him in the sacristy to hear his confession with the help of a dictionary of sins. It was 
such a long list that the aged priest, used to going to bed at six o’clock, fell asleep in his chair before 
it was over. The interrogation was a revelation for Jose Arcadio Segundo. It did not surprise him 
that the priest asked him if he had done bad things with women, and he honestly answered no, but 
he was upset with the question as to whether he had done them with animals. The first Friday in 
May he received communion, tortured by curiosity. Later on he asked Petronio, the sickly sexton 
who lived in the belfry and who, according to what they said, fed himself on bats, about it, and 
Petronio, answered him: “There are some corrupt Christians who do their business with female 
donkeys.” Jose Arcadio Segundo still showed so much curiosity and asked so many questions that 
Petronio lost his patience. 

“I go Tuesday nights,” he confessed, “if you promise not to tell anyone I’ll take you next 

Indeed, on the following Tuesday Petronio came down out of the tower with a wooden stool 
which until then no one had known the use of, and he took Jose Arcadio Segundo to a nearby 
pasture. The boy became so taken with those nocturnal raids that it was a long time before he was 
seen at Catarino’s. He became a cockfight man. “Take those creatures somewhere else,” Ursula 
ordered him the first time she saw him come in with his fine fighting birds. “Roosters have already 
brought too much bitterness to this house for you to bring us any more.” Jose Arcadio Segundo 
took them away without any argument, but he continued breeding them at the house of Pilar 
Ternera, his grandmother, who gave him everything he needed in exchange for having him in her 
house. He soon displayed in the cockpit the wisdom that Father Antonio Isabel had given him, and 
he made enough money not only to enrich Inis brood but also to look for a man’s satisfactions. 
Ursula compared him with his brother at that time and could not understand how the twins, who 
looked like the same person in childhood, had ended up so differently. Her perplexity did not last 
very long, for quite soon Aureliano Segundo began to show signs of laziness and dissipation. While 
he was shut up in Melquiades’ room he was drawn into himself the way Colonel Aureliano Buendia 
had been in his youth. But a short time after the Treaty of Neerlandia, a piece of chance took him 
out of his withdrawn self and made him face the reality of the world. A young woman who was 
selling numbers for the raffle of an accordion greeted him with a great deal of familiarity. Aureliano 
Segundo was not surprised, for he was frequently confused with his brother. But he did not clear up 
the mistake, not even when the girl tried to soften his heart with sobs, and she ended taking him to 
her room. She liked him so much from that first meeting that she fixed things so that he would win 



the accordion in the raffle. At the end of two weeks Aureliano Segundo realized that the woman had 
been going to bed alternately with him and his brother, thinking that they were the same man, and 
instead of making tilings clear, he arranged to prolong the situation. He did not return to 
Melquiades’ room. He would spend his afternoons in the courtyard, learning to play the accordion 
by ear over the protests of Ursula, who at that time had forbidden music in the house because of the 
mourning and who, in addition, despised the accordion as an instmment worthy only of the 
vagabond heirs of Francisco the Man. Nevertheless, Aureliano Segundo became a virtuoso on the 
accordion and he still was after he had married and had children and was one of the most respected 
men in Macondo. 

For almost two months he shared the woman with his brother. He would watch him, mix up his 
plans, and when he was sure that Jose Arcadio Segundo was not going to visit their common 
mistress that night, he would go and sleep with her. One morning he found that he was sick. Two 
days later he found his brother clinging to a beam in the bathroom, soaked in sweat and with tears 
pouring down, and then he understood. His brother confessed to him that the woman had sent him 
away because he had given her what she called a low-life sickness. He also told him how Pilar 
Ternera had tried to cure him. Aureliano Segundo submitted secretly to the burning baths of 
permanganate and to diuretic waters, and both were cured separately after three months of secret 
suffering. Jose Arcadio Segundo did not see the woman again. Aureliano Segundo obtained her 
pardon and stayed with her until his death. 

Her name was Petra Cotes. She had arrived in Macondo in the middle of the war with a chalice 
husband who lived off raffles, and when the man died she kept up the business. She was a clean 
young mulatto woman with yellow almond-shaped eyes that gave her face the ferocity of a panther, 
but she had a generous heart and a magnificent vocation for love. When Ursula realized that Jose 
Arcadio Segundo was a cockfight man and that Aureliano Segundo played the accordion at his 
concubine’s noisy parties, she thought she would go mad with the combination. It was as if the 
defects of the family and none of the virtues had been concentrated in both. Then she decided that 
no one again would be called Aureliano or Jose Arcadio. Yet when Aureliano Segundo had his first 
son she did not dare go against his will. 

“All right,” Ursula said, “but on one condition: I will bring him up.” 

Although she was already a hundred years old and on the point of going blind from cataracts, she 
still had her physical dynamism, her integrity of character, and her mental balance intact. No one 
would be better able than she to shape the virtuous man who would restore the prestige of the 
family, a man who would never have heard talk of war, fighting cocks, bad women, or wild 
undertakings, four calamities that, according to what Ursula thought, had determined the downfall, 
of their line. “This one will be a priest,” she promised solemnly. “And if God gives me life he’ll be 
Pope someday.” They all laughed when they heard her, not only in the bedroom but all through the 
house, where Aureliano Segundo’s rowdy friends were gathered. The war, relegated to the attic of 
bad memories, was momentarily recalled with the popping of champagne bottles. 

“To the health of the Pope,” Aureliano Segundo toasted. 

The guests toasted in a chorus. Then the man of the house played the accordion, fireworks were 
set off, and drums celebrated the event throughout the town. At dawn the guests, soaked in 
champagne, sacrificed six cows and put them in the street at the disposal of the crowd. No one was 
scandalized. Since Aureliano Segundo had taken charge of the house those festivities were a 
common thing, even when there was no motive as proper as the birth of a Pope. In a few years, 
without effort, simply by luck, he had accumulated one of the largest fortunes in the swamp thanks 
to the supernatural proliferation of his animals. His mares would bear triplets, his hens laid twice a 
day, and his hogs fattened with such speed that no one could explain such disorderly fecundity 
except through the use of black magic. “Save something now,” Ursula would tell her wild great- 



grandson. “This luck is not going to last all your life.” But Aureliano Segundo paid no attention to 
her. The more he opened champagne to soak his friends, the more wildly his animals gave birth and 
the more he was convinced that his lucky star was not a matter of his conduct but an influence of 
Petra Cotes, his concubine, whose love had the virtue of exasperating nature. So convinced was he 
that this was the origin of his fortune that he never kept Petra Cotes far away from his breeding 
grounds and even when he married and had children he continued living with her with the consent 
of Fernanda. Solid, monumental like his grandfathers, but with a joie de vivre and an irresistible 
good humor that they did not have, Aureliano Segundo scarcely had time to look after his animals. 
All he had to do was to take Petra Cores to his breeding grounds and have her ride across his land in 
order to have every animal marked with his brand succumb to the irremediable plague of 

Like all the good things that occurred in his long life, that tremendous fortune had its origins in 
chance. Until the end of the wars Petra Cotes continued to support herself with the returns from her 
raffles and Aureliano Segundo was able to sack Ursula’s savings from time to time. They were a 
frivolous couple, with no other worries except going to bed every night, even on forbidden days, 
and frolicking there until dawn. “That woman has been your ruination,” Ursula would shout at her 
great-grandson when she saw him coming into the house like a sleepwalker. “She’s got you so 
bewitched that one of these days Pm going to see you twisting around with colic and with a toad in 
your belly.” Jose Arcadio Segundo, who took a long time to discover that he had been supplanted, 
was unable to understand his brother’s passion. He remembered Petra Cotes as an ordinary woman, 
rather lazy in bed, and completely lacking in any resources for lovemaking. Deaf to Ursula’s clamor 
and the teasing of his brother, Aureliano Segundo only thought at that time of finding a trade that 
would allow him to maintain a house for Petra Cotes, and to die with her, on top of her and under¬ 
neath her, during a night of feverish license. When Colonel Aureliano Buendia opened up his 
workshop again, seduced at last by the peaceful charms of old age, Aureliano Segundo thought that 
it would be good business to devote himself to the manufacture of little gold fishes. He spent many 
hours in the hot room watching how the hard sheets of metal, worked by the colonel with the 
inconceivable patience of disillusionment, were slowly being converted into golden scales. The work 
seemed so laborious to him and the thought of Petra Cotes was so persistent and pressing that after 
three weeks he disappeared from the workshop. It was during that time that it occurred to Petra 
Cotes to raffle off rabbits. They reproduced and grew up so fast that there was barely time to sell the 
tickets for the raffle. At first Aureliano Segundo did not notice the alarming proportions of the 
proliferation. But one night, when nobody in town wanted to hear about the rabbit raffle any more, 
he heard a noise by the courtyard door. “Don’t get worried,” Petra, Cotes said. “It’s only the 
rabbits.” They could not sleep, tormented by the uproar of the animals. At dawn Aureliano Segundo 
opened the door and saw the courtyard paved with rabbits, blue in the glow of dawn. Petra Cotes, 
dying with laughter, could not resist the temptation of teasing him. 

“Those are the ones who were born last night,” she aid. 

“Oh my God!” he said. “Why don’t you raffle off cows?” 

A few days later, in an attempt to clean out her courtyard, Petra Cotes exchanged the rabbits for a 
cow, who two months later gave birth to triplets. That was how things began. Overnight Aureliano 
Segundo be. came the owner of land and livestock and he barely had time to enlarge his overflowing 
barns and pigpens. It was a delirious prosperity that even made him laugh, and he could not help 
doing crazy things to release his good humor. “Cease, cows, life is short,” he would shout. Ursula 
wondered what entanglements he had got into, whether he might be stealing, whether he had 
become a rustler, and every time she saw him uncorking champagne just for the pleasure of pouring 
the foam over his head, she would shout at him and scold him for the waste. It annoyed him so 
much that one day when he awoke in a merry mood, Aureliano Segundo appeared with a chest full 



of money, a can of paste, and a brush, and singing at the top of his lungs the old songs of Francisco 
the Man, he papered the house inside and out and from top to bottom, with one-peso banknotes. 
The old mansion, painted white since the time they had brought the pianola, took on the strange 
look of a mosque. In the midst of the excitement of the family the scandalization of Ursula, the joy 
of the people cramming the street to watch that apotheosis of squandering. Aureliano Segundo 
finished by papering the house from the front to the kitchen, including bathrooms and bedrooms, 
and threw the leftover bills into the courtyard. 

“Now,” he said in a final way, “I hope that nobody in this house ever talks to me about money 

That was what happened. Ursula had the bills taken down, stuck to great cakes of whitewash, and 
the house was painted white again. “Dear Lord,” she begged, “make us poor again the way we were 
when we founded this town so that you will not collect for this squandering in the other life.” Her 
prayers were answered in reverse. One of the workmen removing the bills bumped into an 
enormous plaster statue of Saint Joseph that someone had left in the house during the last years of 
the war and the hollow figure broke to pieces on the floor. It had been stuffed with gold coins. No 
one could remember who had brought that life-sized saint. “Three men brought it,” Amaranta 
explained. “They asked us to keep it until the rains were over and I told them to put it there in the 
comer where nobody would bump into it, and there they put it, very carefully, and there it’s been 
ever since because they never came back for it.” Later on, Ursula had put candles on it and had 
prostrated herself before it, not suspecting that instead of a saint she was adoring almost four 
bundled pounds of gold. The tardy evidence of her involuntary paganism made her even more 
upset. She spat on the spectacular pile of coins, put them in three canvas sacks, and buried them in a 
secret place, hoping that sooner or later the three unknown men would come to reclaim them. Much 
later, during the difficult years of her decrepitude, Ursula would intervene in the conversations of 
the many travelers who came by the house at that time and ask them if they had left a plaster Saint 
Joseph there during the war to be taken care of until the rains passed. 

Things like that which gave Ursula such consternation, were commonplace in those days. 
Macondo was swamped in a miraculous prosperity. The adobe houses of the founders had been 
replaced by brick buildings with wooden blinds and cement floors which made the suffocating heat 
of two o’clock in the afternoon more bearable. All that remained at that time of Jose Arcadio 
Buendfa’s ancient village were the dusty almond trees, destined to resist the most arduous of 
circumstances, and the river of clear water whose prehistoric stones had been pulverized by the 
frantic hammers of Jose Arcadio Segundo when he set about opening the channel in order to 
establish a boat line. It was a mad dream, comparable to those of his great-grandfather, for the rocky 
riverbed and the numerous rapids prevented navigation from Macondo to the sea. But Jose Arcadio 
Segundo, in an unforeseen burst of temerity, stubbornly kept on with the project. Until then he had 
shown no sign of imagination. Except for his precarious adventure with Petra Cotes, he had never 
known a woman. Ursula had considered him the quietest example the family had ever produced in 
all its history, incapable of standing out even as a handler of fighting cocks, when Colonel Aureliano 
Buendfa told him the story of the Spanish galleon aground eight miles from the sea, the carbonized 
frame of which he had seen himself during the war. The story, which for so many years had seemed 
fantastic to so many people, was a revelation for Jose Arcadio Segundo. He auctioned off his 
roosters to the highest bidder, recruited men, bought tools, and set about the awesome task of 
breaking stones, digging canals, clearing away rapids, and even harnessing waterfalls. “I know all of 
this by heart,” Ursula would shout. “It’s as if time had turned around and we were back at the 
beginning.” When he thought that the river was navigable, Jose Arcadio Segundo gave his brother a 
detailed account of his plans and the latter gave him the money he needed for the enterprise. He 
disappeared for a long time. It had been said that his plan to buy a boat was nothing but a trick to 



make off with his brother’s money when the news spread that a strange craft was approaching the 
town. The inhabitants of Macondo, who no longer remembered the colossal undertakings of Jose 
Arcadio Buendia, ran to the riverbank and saw with eyes popping in disbelief the arrival of the first 
and last boat ever to dock in the town. It was nothing but a log raft drawn by thick ropes pulled by 
twenty men who walked along the bank. In the prow, with a glow of satisfaction in his eyes, Jose 
Arcadio Segundo was directing the arduous maneuver. There arrived with him a rich group of 
splendid matrons who were protecting themselves from the burning sun with gaudy parasols, and 
wore on their shoulders fine silk kerchiefs, with colored creams on their faces and natural flowers in 
their hair and golden serpents on their arms and diamonds in their teeth. The log raft was the only 
vessel that Jose Arcadio Segundo was able to bring to Macondo, and only once, but he never 
recognized the failure of his enterprise, but proclaimed his deed as a victory of will power. He gave a 
scmpulous accounting to his brother and very soon plunged back into the routine of cockfights. The 
only tiling that remained of that unfortunate venture was the breath of renovation that the matrons 
from France brought, as their magnificent arts transformed traditional methods of love and their 
sense of social well-being abolished Catarino’s antiquated place and turned the street into a bazaar of 
Japanese lanterns and nostalgic hand organs. They were the promoters of the bloody carnival that 
plunged Macondo into delirium for three days and whose only lasting consequence was having given 
Aureliano Segundo the opportunity to meet Fernanda del Carpio. 

Remedios the Beauty was proclaimed queen. Ursula, who shuddered at the disquieted beauty of 
her great-granddaughter, could not prevent the choice. Until then she had succeeded in keeping her 
off the streets unless it was to go to mass with Amaranta, but she made her cover her face with a 
black shawl. The most impious men, those who would disguise themselves as priests to say 
sacrilegious masses in Catarino’s store, would go to church with an aim to see, if only for an instant, 
the face of Remedios the Beauty, whose legendary good looks were spoken of with alarming 
excitement throughout the swamp. It was a long time before they were able to do so, and it would 
have been better for them if they never had, because most of them never recovered their peaceful 
habits of sleep. The man who made it possible, a foreigner, lost his serenity forever, became 
involved in the sloughs of abjection and misery, and years later was cut to pieces by a train after he 
had fallen asleep on the tracks. From the moment he was seen in the church, wearing a green velvet 
suit and an embroidered vest, no one doubted that he came from far away, perhaps from some 
distant city outside of the country, attracted by the magical fascination of Remedios the Beauty. He 
was so handsome, so elegant and dignified, with such presence, that Pietro Crespi would have been 
a mere fop beside him and many women whispered with spiteful smiles that he was the one who 
really should have worn the shawl. He did not speak to anyone in Macondo. He appeared at dawn 
on Sunday like a prince in a fairy tale, riding a horse with silver stirmps and a velvet blanket, and he 
left town after mass. 

The power of his presence was such that from the first time he was seen in the church everybody 
took it for granted that a silent and tense duel had been established between him and Remedios the 
Beauty, a secret pact, an irrevocable challenge that would end not only in love but also in death. On 
the sixth Sunday the gentleman appeared with a yellow rose in his hand. He heard mass standing, as 
he always did, and at the end he stepped in front of Remedios the Beauty and offered her the 
solitary rose. She took it with a natural gesture, as if she had been prepared for that homage, and 
then she uncovered her face and gave her thanks with a smile. That was all she did. Not only for the 
gentleman, but for all the men who had the unfortunate privilege of seeing her, that was an eternal 

From then on the gentleman had a band of musicians play beside the window of Remedios the 
Beauty, sometimes until dawn. Aureliano Segundo was the only one who felt a cordial compassion 
for him and he tried to break his perseverance. “Don’t waste your time any more,” he told him one 



night. “The women in this house are worse than mules.” He offered him his friendship, invited him 
to bathe in champagne, tried to make him understand that the females of his family had insides 
made of flint, but he could not weaken his obstinacy. Exasperated by the interminable nights of 
music. Colonel Aureliano Buendia threatened to cure his affliction with a few pistol shots. Nothing 
made him desist except his own lamentable state of demoralization. From a well-dressed and neat 
individual he became filthy and ragged. It was rumored that he had abandoned power and fortune in 
his distant nation, although his origins were actually never known. He became argumentative, a 
barroom brawler, and he would wake up rolling in his own filth in Catarino’s store. The saddest part 
of his drama was that Remedios the Beauty did not notice him not even when he appeared in church 
dressed like a prince. She accepted the yellow rose without the least bit of malice, amused, rather, by 
the extravagance of the act, and she lifted her shawl to see his face better, not to show hers. 

Actually, Remedios the Beauty was not a creature of this world. Until she was well along in 
puberty Santa Sofia de la. Piedad had to bathe and dress her, and even when she could take care of 
herself it was necessary to keep an eye on her so that she would not paint little animals on the walls 
with a stick daubed in her own excrement. She reached twenty without knowing how to read or 
write, unable to use the silver at the table, wandering naked through the house because her nature 
rejected all manner of convention. When the young commander of the guard declared his love for 
her, she rejected him simply because his frivolity startled her. “See how simple he is,” she told 
Amaranta. “He says that he’s dying because of me, as if I were a bad case of colic.” When, indeed, 
they found him dead beside her window, Remedios the Beauty confirmed her first impression. 

“You see,” she commented. “He was a complete Simpleton.” 

It seemed as if some penetrating lucidity permitted her to see the reality of things beyond any 
formalism. That at least was the point of view of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, for whom Remedios 
the Beauty was in no way mentally retarded, as was generally believed, but quite the opposite. “It’s as 
if she’s come back from twenty years of war,” he would say. Ursula, for her part, thanked God for 
having awarded the family with a creature of exceptional purity, but at the same time she was 
disturbed by her beauty, for it seemed a contradictory virtue to her, a diabolical trap at the center of 
her innocence. It was for that reason that she decided to keep her away from the world, to protect 
her from all earthly temptation, not knowing that Remedios the Beauty, even from the time when 
she was in her mother’s womb, was safe from any contagion. It never entered her head that they 
would elect her beauty queen of the carnival pandemonium. But Aureliano, Segundo, excited at the 
caprice of disguising himself as a tiger, brought Father Antonio Isabel to the house in order to 
convince Ursula that the carnival was not a pagan feast, as she said, but a Catholic tradition. Finally 
convinced, even though reluctantly, she consented to the coronation. 

The news that Remedios Buendia was going to be the sovereign mler of the festival went beyond 
the limits of the swamp in a few hours, reached distant places where the prestige of her beauty was 
not known, and it aroused the anxiety of those who still thought of her last name as a symbol of 
subversion. The anxiety was baseless. If anyone had become harmless at that time it was the aging 
and disillusioned Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who was slowly losing all contact with the reality of 
the nation. Enclosed in his workshop, his only relationship with the rest of the world was his 
business in little gold fishes. One of the soldiers who had guarded his house during the first days of 
peace would go sell them in the villages of the swamp and return loaded down with coins and news. 
That the Conservative government, he would say, with the backing of the Liberals, was reforming 
the calendar so that every president could remain in power for a hundred years. That the concordat 
with the Holy See had finally been signed and a cardinal had come from Rome with a crown of 
diamonds and a throne of solid gold, and that the Liberal ministers had had their pictures taken on 
their knees in the act of kissing his ring. That the leading lady of a Spanish company passing through 
the capital had been kidnapped by a band of masked highwaymen and on the following Sunday she 



had danced in the nude at the summer house of the president of the republic. “Don’t talk to me 
about politics,” the colonel would tell him. “Our business is selling little fishes.” The rumor that he 
did not want to hear anything about the situation in the country because he was growing rich in his 
workshop made Ursula laugh when it reached her ears. With her terrible practical sense she could 
not understand the colonel’s business as he exchanged little fishes for gold coins and then converted 
the coins into little fishes, and so on, with the result that he had to work all the harder with the more 
he sold in order to satisfy an exasperating vicious circle. Actually, what interested him was not the 
business but the work. He needed so much concentration to link scales, fit minute rubies into the 
eyes, laminate gills, and put on fins that there was not the smallest empty moment left for him to fill 
with his disillusionment of the war. So absorbing was the attention required by the delicacy of his 
artistry that in a short time he had aged more than during all the years of the war, and his position 
had twisted his spine and the close work had used up his eyesight, but the implacable concentration 
awarded him with a peace of the spirit. The last time he was seen to take an interest in some matter 
related to the war was when a group of veterans from both parties sought his support for the 
approval of lifetime pensions, which had always been promised and were always about to be put into 
effect. “Forget about it,” he told them. “You can see how I refuse my pension in order to get rid of 
the torture of waiting for it until the day I died.” At first Colonel Gerineldo Marquez would visit him 
at dusk and they would both sit in the street door and talk about the past. But Amaranta could not 
bear the memories that that man, whose baldness had plunged him into the abyss of premature old 
age, aroused in her, and she would torment him with snide remarks until he did not come back 
except on special occasions and he finally disappeared, extinguished by paralysis. Taciturn, silent, 
insensible to the new breath of vitality that was shaking the house. Colonel Aureliano Buendia could 
understand only that the secret of a good old age is simply an honorable pact with solitude. He 
would get up at five in the morning after a light sleep, have his eternal mug of bitter coffee in the 
kitchen, shut himself up all day in the workshop, and at four in the afternoon he would go along the 
porch dragging a stool, not even noticing the fire of the rose bushes or the brightness of the hour or 
the persistence of Amaranta, whose melancholy made the noise of a boiling pot, which was perfectly 
perceptible at dusk, and he would sit in the street door as long as the mosquitoes would allow him 
to. Someone dared to disturb his solitude once. 

“How are you, Colonel?” he asked in passing. 

“Right here,” he answered. “Waiting for my funeral procession to pass.” 

So that the anxiety caused by the public reappearance of his family name, having to do with the 
coronation of Remedios the Beauty, was baseless. Many people did not think that way, however. 
Innocent of the tragedy that threatened it, the town poured into the main square in a noisy 
explosion of merriment. The carnival had reached its highest level of madness and Aureliano 
Segundo had satisfied at last his dream of dressing up like a tiger and was walking along the wild 
throng, hoarse from so much roaring, when on the swamp road a parade of several people appeared 
carrying in a gilded litter the most fascinating woman that imagination could conceive. For a 
moment the inhabitants of Macondo took off their masks in order to get a better look at the 
dazzling creature with a crown of emeralds and an ermine cape, who seemed invested with 
legitimate authority, and was not merely a sovereign of bangles and crepe paper. There were many 
people who had sufficient insight to suspect that it was a question of provocation. But Aureliano 
Segundo immediately conquered his perplexity and declared the new arrivals to be guests of honor, 
and with the wisdom of Solomon he seated Remedios the Beauty and the intmding queen on the 
same dais. Until midnight the strangers, disguised as bedouins, took part in the delirium and even 
enriched it with sumptuous fireworks and acrobatic skills that made one think of the art of the 
gypsies. Suddenly, during the paroxysm of the celebration, someone broke the delicate balance. 

“Long live the Liberal party!” he shouted. “Long live Colonel Aureliano Buendia!” 



The rifle shots drowned out the splendor of the fireworks and the cries of terror drowned out the 
music and joy turned into panic. Many years later there were those who still insisted that the royal 
guard of the intruding queen was a squad of regular army soldiers who were concealing government- 
issue rifles under their rich Moorish robes. The government denied the charge in a special 
proclamation and promised a complete investigation of the bloody episode. But the tmth never 
came to light, and the version always prevailed that the royal guard, without provocation of any kind, 
took up combat positions upon a signal from their commander and opened fire without pity on the 
crowd. When calm was restored, not one of the false bedouins remained in town and there were 
many dead and wounded lying on the square: nine clowns, four Columbines, seventeen playing-card 
kings, one devil, three minstrels, two peers of France, and three Japanese empresses. In the confu¬ 
sion of the panic Jose Arcadio Segundo managed to rescue Remedios the Beauty and Aureliano 
Segundo carried the intruding queen to the house in his arms, her dress torn and the ermine cape 
stained with blood. Her name was Fernanda del Carpio. She had been chosen as the most beautiful 
of the five thousand most beautiful women in the land and they had brought her to Macondo with 
the promise of naming her Queen of Madagascar. Ursula took care of her as if she were her own 
daughter. The town, instead of doubting her innocence, pitied her candor. Six months after the 
massacre, when the wounded had recovered and the last flowers on the mass grave had withered, 
Aureliano Segundo went to fetch her from the distant city where she lived with her father and he 
married her in Macondo with a noisy celebration that lasted twenty days. 



Chapter 11 

THE MARRIAGE was on the point of breaking up after two months because Aureliano Segundo, in 
an attempt to placate Petra Cotes, had a picture taken of her dressed as the Queen of Madagascar. 
When Fernanda found out about it she repacked her bridal trunks and left Macondo without saying 
good-bye. Aureliano Segundo caught up with her on the swamp road. After much pleading and 
promises of reform he succeeded in getting her to come home and he abandoned his concubine. 

Petra Cotes, aware of her strength, showed no signs of worry. She had made a man of him. While 
he was still a child she had drawn him out of Melquiades’ room, his head full of fantastic ideas and 
lacking any contact with reality, and she had given him a place in the world. Nature had made him 
reserved and withdrawn, with tendencies toward solitary meditation, and she had molded an 
opposite character in him, one that was vital, expansive, open, and she had injected him with a joy 
for living and a pleasure in spending and celebrating until she had converted him inside and out, into 
the man she had dreamed of for herself ever since adolescence. Then he married, as all sons marry 
sooner or later. He did not dare tell her the news. He assumed an attitude that was quite childish 
under the circumstances, feigning anger and imaginary resentment so that Petra Cotes would be the 
one who would bring about the break. One day, when Aureliano Segundo reproached her unjustly, 
she eluded the trap and put things in their proper place. 

“What it all means,” she said, “is that you want to marry the queen.” 

Aureliano Segundo, ashamed, pretended an attack of rage, said that he was misunderstood and 
abused, and did not visit her again. Petra Cotes, without losing her poise of a wild beast in repose 
for a single instant, heard the music and the fireworks from the wedding, the wild bustle of the 
celebration as if all of it were nothing but some new piece of mischief on the part of Aureliano 
Segundo. Those who pitied her fate were calmed with a smile. “Don’t worry,” she told them. 
“Queens run errands for me.” To a neighbor woman who brought her a set of candles so that she 
could light up the picture of her lost lover with them, she said with an enigmatic security: 

“The only candle that will make him come is always lighted.” 

Just as she had foreseen, Aureliano Segundo went back to her house as soon as the honeymoon 
was over. He brought his usual old friends, a traveling photographer, and the gown and ermine cape 
soiled with blood that Fernanda had worn during the carnival. In the heat of the merriment that 
broke out that evening, he had Petra Cotes dress up as queen, crowned her absolute and lifetime 
ruler of Madagascar, and handed out copies of the picture to his friends, she not only went along 
with the game, but she felt sorry for him inside, thinking that he must have been very frightened to 
have conceived of that extravagant means of reconciliation. At seven in the evening, still dressed as 
the queen, she received him in bed. He had been married scarcely two months, but she realized at 
once that tilings were not going well in the nuptial bed, and she had the delicious pleasure of 
vengeance fulfilled. Two days later, however, when he did not dare return but sent an intermediary 
to arrange the terms of the separation, she understood that she was going to need more patience 
than she had foreseen because he seemed ready to sacrifice himself for the sake of appearances. Nor 
did she get upset that time. Once again she made things easy with a submission that confirmed the 
generalized belief that she was a poor devil, and the only souvenir she kept of Aureliano Segundo 
was a pair of patent leather boots, which, according to what he himself had said, were the ones he 
wanted to wear in his coffin. She kept them wrapped in cloth in the bottom of a trunk and made 
ready to feed on memories, waiting without despair. 

“He has to come sooner or later,” she told herself, “even if it’s just to put on those boots.” 



She did not have to wait as long as she had imagined. Actually, Aureliano Segundo understood 
from the night of his wedding that he would return to the house of Petra Cotes much sooner than 
when he would have to put on the patent leather boots: Fernanda was a woman who was lost in the 
world. She had been born and raised in a city six hundred miles away, a gloomy city where on 
ghostly nights the coaches of the viceroys still rattled through the cobbled streets. Thirty-two 
belfries tolled a dirge at six in the afternoon. In the manor house, which was paved with tomblike 
slabs, the sun was never seen. The air had died in the cypresses in the courtyard, in the pale 
trappings of the bedrooms, in the dripping archways of the garden of perennials. Until puberty 
Fernanda had no news of the world except for the melancholy piano lessons taken in some 
neighboring house by someone who for years and years had the drive not to take a siesta. In the 
room of her sick mother, green and yellow under the powdery light from the windowpanes, she 
would listen to the methodical, stubborn, heartless scales and think that that music was in the world 
while she was being consumed as she wove funeral wreaths. Her mother, perspiring with five- 
o’clock fever, spoke to her of the splendor of the past. When she was a little girl, on one moonlit 
night Fernanda saw a beautiful woman dressed in white crossing the garden toward the chapel. What 
bothered her most about that fleeting vision was that she felt it was exactly like her, as if she had 
seen herself twenty years in advance. “It was your great-grandmother the queen,” her mother told 
her during a tmce in her coughing. “She died of some bad vapors while she was cutting a string of 
bulbs.” Many years later, when she began to feel she was the equal of her great-grandmother, 
Fernanda doubted her childhood vision, but her mother scolded her disbelief. 

“We are immensely rich and powerful,” she told her. “One day you will be a queen.” 

She believed it, even though they were sitting at the long table with a linen tablecloth and silver 
service to have a cup of watered chocolate and a sweet bun. Until the day of her wedding she 
dreamed about a legendary kingdom, in spite of the fact that her father, Don Fernando, had to 
mortgage the house in order to buy her trousseau. It was not innocence or delusions of grandeur. 
That was how they had brought her up. Since she had had the use of reason she remembered having 
done her duty in a gold pot with the family crest on it. She left the house for the first time at the age 
of twelve in a coach and horses that had to travel only two blocks to take her to the convent. Her 
classmates were surprised that she sat apart from them in a chair with a very high back and that she 
would not even mingle with them during recess. “She’s different,” the nuns would explain. “She’s 
going to be a queen.” Her schoolmates believed this because she was already the most beautiful, 
distinguished, and discreet girl they had ever seen. At the end of eight years, after having learned to 
write Latin poetry, play the clavichord, talk about falconry with gentlemen and apologetics, with 
archbishops, discuss affairs of state with foreign mlers and affairs of God with the Pope, she 
returned to her parents’ home to weave funeral wreaths. She found it despoiled. All that was left was 
the furniture that was absolutely necessary, the silver candelabra and table service, for the everyday 
utensils had been sold one by one to underwrite the costs of her education. Her mother had suc¬ 
cumbed to five-o’clock fever. Her father, Don Fernando, dressed in black with a stiff collar and a 
gold watch chain, would give her a silver coin on Mondays for the household expenses, and the 
funeral wreaths finished the week before would be taken away. He spent most of his time shut up in 
his study and the few times that he went out he would return to recite the rosary with her. She had 
intimate friendships with no one. She had never heard mention of the wars that were bleeding the 
country. She continued her piano lessons at three in the afternoon. She had even began to lose the 
illusion of being a queen when two peremptory raps of the knocker sounded at the door and she 
opened it to a well-groomed military officer with ceremonious manners who had a scar on his cheek 
and a gold medal on his chest. He closeted himself with her father in the study. Two hours later her 
father came to get her in the sewing room. “Get your things together,” he told her. “You have to 
take a long trip.” That was how they took her to Macondo. In one single day, with a bmtal slap, life 



threw on top of her the whole weight of a reality that her parents had kept hidden from her for 
many years. When she returned home she shut herself up in her room to weep, indifferent to Don 
Fernando’s pleas and explanations as he tried to erase the scars of that strange joke. She had sworn 
to herself never to leave her bedroom until she died when Aureliano Segundo came to get her. It 
was an act of impossible fate, because in the confusion of her indignation, in the fury of her shame, 
she had lied to him so that he would never know her real identity. The only real clues that Aureliano 
Segundo had when he left to look for her were her unmistakable highland accent and her trade as a 
weaver of funeral wreaths. He searched for her without cease. With the fierce temerity with which 
Jose Arcadio Buendia had crossed the mountains to found Macondo, with the blind pride with 
which Colonel Aureliano Buendia had undertaken his fmitless wars, with the mad tenacity with 
which Ursula watched over the survival of the line, Aureliano Segundo looked for Fernanda, without 
a single moment of respite. When he asked where they sold funeral wreaths they took him from 
house to house so that he could choose the best ones. When he asked for the most beautiful woman 
who had ever been seen on this earth, all the women brought him their daughters. He became lost in 
misty byways, in times reserved for oblivion, in labyrinths of disappointment. He crossed a yellow 
plain where the echo repeated one’s thoughts and where anxiety brought on premonitory mirages. 
After sterile weeks he came to an unknown city where all the bells were tolling a dirge. Although he 
had never seen them and no one had ever described them to him he immediately recognized the 
walls eaten away by bone salt, the broken-down wooden balconies gutted by fungus, and nailed to 
the outside door, almost erased by rain, the saddest cardboard sign in the world: Funeral Wreaths for 
Sale. From that moment until the icy morning when Fernanda left her house under the care of the 
Mother Superior there was barely enough time for the nuns to sew her trousseau and in six trunks 
put the candelabra, the silver service, and the gold chamberpot along with the countless and useless 
remains of a family catastrophe that had been two centuries late in its fulfillment. Don Fernando 
declined the invitation to go along. He promised to go later when he had cleared up his affairs, and 
from the moment when he gave his daughter his blessing he shut himself up in his study again to 
write out the announcements with mournful sketches and the family coat of arms, which would be 
the first human contact that Fernanda and her father would have had in all their lives. That was the 
real date of her birth for her. For Aureliano Segundo it was almost simultaneously the beginning and 
the end of happiness. 

Fernanda carried a delicate calendar with small golden keys on which her spiritual adviser had 
marked in purple ink the dates of venereal abstinence. Not counting Holy week, Sundays, holy days 
of obligation, first Fridays, retreats, sacrifices, and cyclical impediments, her effective year was 
reduced to forty-two days that were spread out through a web of purple crosses. Aureliano Segundo, 
convinced that time would break up that hostile network, prolonged the wedding celebration be¬ 
yond the expected time. Tired of throwing out so many empty brandy and champagne bottles so 
that they would not clutter up the house and at the same time intrigued by the fact that the 
newlyweds slept at different times and in separate rooms while the fireworks and music and the 
slaughtering of cattle went on, Ursula remembered her own experience and wondered whether Fer¬ 
nanda might have a chastity belt too which would sooner or later provoke jokes in the town and give 
rise to a tragedy. But Fernanda confessed to her that she was just letting two weeks go by before 
allowing the first contact with her husband. Indeed, when the period was over, she opened her 
bedroom with a resignation worthy of an expiatory victim and Aureliano Segundo saw the most 
beautiful woman on earth, with her glorious eyes of a frightened animal and her long, copper- 
colored hair spread out across the pillow. He was so fascinated with that vision that it took him a 
moment to realize that Fernanda was wearing a white nightgown that reached down to her ankles, 
with long sleeves and with a large, round buttonhole, delicately trimmed, at the level of her lower 
stomach. Aureliano Segundo could not suppress an explosion of laughter. 



“That’s the most obscene thing I’ve ever seen in my life,” he shouted with a laugh that rang 
through the house. “I married a Sister of Charity.” 

A month later, unsuccessful in getting his wife to take off her nightgown, he had the picture 
taken of Petra Cotes dressed as a queen. Later on, when he succeeded in getting Fernanda to come 
back home, she gave in to his urges in the fever of reconciliation, but she could not give him the 
repose he had dreamed about when he went to fetch her in the city with the thirty-two belfries. 
Aureliano Segundo found only a deep feeling of desolation in her. One night, a short time before 
their first child was born, Fernanda realized that her husband had returned in secret to the bed of 
Petra Cotes. 

“That’s what happened,” he admitted. And he explained in a tone of prostrated resignation: “I 
had to do it so that the animals would keep on breeding.” 

He needed a little time to convince her about such a strange expedient, but when he finally did so 
by means of proofs that seemed irrefutable, the only promise that Fernanda demanded from him 
was that he should not be surprised by death in his concubine’s bed. In that way the three of them 
continued living without bothering each other. Aureliano Segundo, punctual and loving with both of 
them. Petra Cotes, strutting because of the reconciliation, and Fernanda, pretending that she did not 
know the truth. 

The pact did not succeed, however, in incorporating Fernanda into the family. Ursula insisted in 
vain that she take off the woolen ruff which she would have on when she got up from making love 
and which made the neighbors whisper. She could not convince her to use the bathroom or the 
night lavatory and sell the gold chamberpot to Colonel Aureliano Buendia so that he could convert 
it into little fishes. Amaranta felt so uncomfortable with her defective diction and her habit of using 
euphemisms to designate everything that she would always speak gibberish in front of her. 

“Thifisif.” she would say, “ifisif onefos ofosif thofosif whosufu cantantant statantand thefesef 
smufumellu ofosif therisir owfisown shifisifit.” 

One day, irritated by the mockery, Fernanda wanted to know what Amaranta was saying, and she 
did not use euphemisms in answering her. 

“I was saying,” she told her, “that you’re one of those people who mix up their ass and their 

From that time on they did not speak to each other again. When circumstances demanded it they 
would send notes. In spite of the visible hostility of the family, Fernanda did not give up her drive to 
impose the customs of her ancestors. She put an end to the custom of eating in the kitchen and 
whenever anyone was hungry, and she imposed the obligation of doing it at regular hours at the 
large table in the dining room, covered with a linen cloth and with silver candlesticks and table 
service. The solemnity of an act which Ursula had considered the most simple one of daily life 
created a tense atmosphere against which the silent Jose Arcadio Segundo rebelled before anyone 
else. But the custom was imposed, the same as that of reciting the rosary before dinner, and it drew 
the attention of the neighbors, who soon spread the rumor that the Buendias did not sit down to the 
table like other mortals but had changed the act of eating into a kind of high mass. Even Ursula’s 
superstitions, with origins that came more from an inspiration of the moment than from tradition, 
came into conflict with those of Fernanda, who had inherited them from her parents and kept them 
defined and catalogued for every occasion. As long as Ursula had full use of her faculties some of 
the old customs survived and the life of the family kept some quality of her impulsiveness, but when 
she lost her sight and the weight of her years relegated her to a corner, the circle of rigidity begun by 
Fernanda from the moment she arrived finally closed completely and no one but she determined the 
destiny of the family. The business in pastries and small candy animals that Santa Sofia de la Piedad 
had kept up because of Ursula’s wishes was considered an unworthy activity by Fernanda and she 
lost no time in putting a stop to it. The doors of the house, wide open from dawn until bedtime. 



were closed during siesta time under the pretext that the sun heated up the bedrooms and in the end 
they were closed for good. The aloe branch and loaf of bread that had been hanging over the door 
since the days of the founding were replaced by a niche with the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Colonel 
Aureliano, Buendia became aware somehow of those changes and foresaw their consequences. 
“We’re becoming people of quality,” he protested. “At this rate we’ll end up fighting against the 
Conservative regime again, but this time to install a king in its place.” Fernanda very tactfully tried 
not to cross Iris path. Within herself she was bothered by his independent spirit his resistance to all 
kinds of social rigidity. She was exasperated by his mugs of coffee at five in the morning, the 
disorder of his workshop, his frayed blanket, and his custom of sitting in the street door at dusk. But 
she had to tolerate that one loose piece in the family machinery because she was sure that the old 
colonel was an animal who had been tamed by the years and by disappointment and who, in a burst 
of senile rebellion, was quite capable of uprooting the foundations of the house. When her husband 
decided to give their first son the name of Iris great-grandfather, she did not dare oppose him 
because she had been there only a year. But when the first daughter was bom she expressed her 
unreserved determination to name her Renata after her mother. Ursula had decided to call her 
Remedios. After a tense argument, in which Aureliano Segundo acted as the laughing go-between, 
they baptized her with the name Renata Remedios, but Fernanda went on calling her just Renata 
while her husband’s family and everyone in town called her Meme, a diminutive of Remedios. 

At first Fernanda did not talk about her family, but in time she began to idealize her father. She 
spoke of him at the table as an exceptional being who had renounced all forms of vanity and was on 
his way to becoming a saint. Aureliano Segundo, startled at that unbridled glorification of his father- 
in-law, could not resist the temptation to make small jokes behind his wife’s back. The rest of the 
family followed his example. Even Ursula, who was extremely careful to preserve family harmony 
and who suffered in secret from the domestic friction, once allowed herself the liberty of saying that 
her little great-great-grandson had his pontifical future assured because he was “the grandson of a 
saint and the son of a queen and a rustler.” In spite of that conspiracy of smiles, the children became 
accustomed to think of their grandfather as a legendary being who wrote them pious verses in his 
letters and every Christmas sent them a box of gifts that barely fitted through the outside door. 
Actually they were the last remains of his lordly inheritance. They used them to build an altar of life- 
size saints in the children’s bedroom, saints with glass eyes that gave them a disquietingly lifelike 
look, whose artistically embroidered clothing was better than that worn by any inhabitant of Macon- 
do. Little by little the funereal splendor of the ancient and icy mansion was being transformed into 
the splendor of the House of Buendia. “They’ve already sent us the whole family cemetery,” 
Aureliano Segundo commented one day. “All we need now are the weeping willows and the 
tombstones.” Although nothing ever arrived in the boxes that the children could play with, they 
would spend all year waiting for December because, after all, the antique and always unpredictable 
gifts were something, new in the house. On the tenth Christmas, when little Jose Arcadio was 
getting ready to go to the seminary, the enormous box from their grandfather arrived earlier than 
usual, nailed tight and protected with pitch, and addressed in the usual Gothic letters to the Very 
Distinguished Lady Dona Fernanda del Carpio de Buendia. While she read the letter in her room the 
children hastened to open the box. Aided as was customary by Aureliano Segundo, they broke the 
seals, opened the cover, took out the protective sawdust, and found inside a long lead chest closed 
by copper bolts. Aureliano Segundo took out the eight bolts as the children watched impatiently, 
and he barely had time to give a cry and push the children aside when be raised the lead cover and 
saw Don Fernando, dressed in black and with a crucifix on his chest, Iris skin broken out in 
pestilential sores and cooking slowly in a frothy stew with bubbles like live pearls. 

A short time after the birth of their daughter, the unexpected jubilee for Colonel Aureliano, 
Buendia, ordered by the government to celebrate another anniversary of the Treaty of Neerlandia, 



was announced. It was a decision so out of line with official policy that the colonel spoke out 
violently against it and rejected the homage. “It’s the first time I’ve ever heard of the word ‘jubilee,’ 
” he said. “But whatever it means, it has to be a trick.” The small goldsmith shop was filled with 
emissaries. Much older and more solemn, the lawyers in dark suits who in other days had flapped 
about the colonel like crows had returned. When he saw them appear the same as the other time, 
when they came to put a stop to the war, he could not bear the cynicism of their praise. He ordered 
them to leave him in peace, insisting that he was not a hero of the nation as they said but an artisan 
without memories whose only dream was to die of fatigue in the oblivion and misery of his little 
gold fishes. What made him most indignant was the word that the president of the republic himself 
planned to be present at the ceremonies in Macondo in order to decorate him with the Order of 
Merit. Colonel Aureliano, Buendfa had him told, word for word, that he was eagerly awaiting that 
tardy but deserved occasion in order to take a shot at him, not as payment for the arbitrary acts and 
anachronisms of his regime, but for his lack of respect for an old man who had not done anyone any 
harm. Such was the vehemence with which he made the threat that the president of the republic 
canceled his trip at the last moment and sent the decoration with a personal representative. Colonel 
Gerineldo Marquez, besieged by pressures of all kinds, left his bed of a paralytic in order to persuade 
his former companion in arms. When the latter saw the rocking chair carried by four men appear 
and saw the friend who had shared his victories and defeats since youth sitting in it among some 
large pillows, he did not have a single doubt but that he was making that effort in order to express 
his solidarity. But when he discovered the real motive for his visit he had them take him out of the 

“Now I’m convinced too late,” he told him, “that I would have done you a great favor if I’d let 
them shoot you.” 

So the jubilee was celebrated without the attendance of any members of the family. Chance had it 
that it also coincided with carnival week, but no one could get the stubborn idea out of Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia’s head that the coincidence had been foreseen by the government in order to 
heighten the cmelty of the mockery. From his lonely workshop he could hear the martial music, the 
artillery salutes, the tolling of the Te Deum, and a few phrases of the speeches delivered in front of 
the house as they named the street after him. His eyes grew moist with indignation, with angry 
impotence, and for the first time since his defeat it pained him not to have the strength of youth so 
that he could begin a bloody war that would wipe out the last vestiges of the Conservative regime. 
The echoes of the homage had not died down when Ursula knocked at the workshop door. 

“Don’t bother me,” he said. “I’m busy.” 

“Open up,” Ursula insisted in a normal voice. “This has nothing to do with the celebration.” 

Then Colonel Aureliano Buendia took down the bar and saw at the door seventeen men of the 
most varied appearance, of all types and colors, but all with a solitary air that would have been 
enough to identify them anywhere on earth. They were his sons. Without any previous agreement, 
without knowing each other, they had arrived from the most distant corners of the coast, captivated 
by the talk of the jubilee. They all bore with pride the name Aureliano and the last name of their 
mothers. The three days that they stayed in the house, to the satisfaction of Ursula and the scandal 
of Fernanda, were like a state war. Amaranta searched among old papers for the ledger where Ursula 
had written down the names and birth and baptism dates of all of them, and beside the space for 
each one she added his present address. That list could well have served as a recapitulation of twenty 
years of war. From it the nocturnal itinerary of the colonel from the dawn he left Macondo at the 
head of twenty-one men on his way to a fanciful rebellion until he returned for the last time 
wrapped in a blanket stiff with blood could have been reconstructed. Aureliano Segundo did not let 
the chance go by to regale his cousins with a thunderous champagne and accordion party that was 
interpreted as a tardy adjustment of accounts with the carnival, which went awry because of the 



jubilee. They smashed half of the dishes, they destroyed the rose bushes as they chased a bull they 
were trying to hog-tie, they killed the hens by shooting them, they made Amaranta dance the sad 
waltzes of Pietro Crespi, they got Remedios the Beauty to put on a pair of men’s pants and climb a 
greased pole, and in the dining room they turned loose a pig daubed with lard, which prostrated 
Fernanda, but no one regretted the destruction because the house shook with a healthy earthquake. 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia who at first received them with mistrust and even doubted the parentage 
of some, was amused by their wildness, and before they left he gave each one a little gold fish. Even 
the withdrawn Jose Arcadio Segundo offered them an afternoon of cockfights, which was at the 
point of ending in tragedy because several of the Aurelianos were so expert in matters of the cockpit 
that they spotted Father Antonio Isabel’s tricks at once. Aureliano Segundo, who saw the limitless 
prospect of wild times offered by those mad relatives, decided that they should all stay and work for 
him. The only one who accepted was Aureliano Triste, a big mulatto with the drive and explorer’s 
spirit of his grandfather. Fie had already tested his fortune in half the world and it did not matter to 
him where he stayed. The others, even though they were unmarried, considered their destinies 
established. They were all skillful craftsmen, the men of their houses, peace-loving people. The Ash 
Wednesday before they went back to scatter out along the coast, Amaranta got them to put on 
Sunday clothes and accompany her to church. More amused than devout, they let themselves be led 
to the altar rail where Father Antonio Isabel made the sign of the cross in ashes on them. Back at 
the house, when the youngest tried to clean his forehead, he discovered that the mark was indelible 
and so were those of his brothers. They tried soap and water, earth and a scrubbing brush, and lastly 
a pumice stone and lye, but they could not remove the crosses. On the other hand, Amaranta and 
the others who had gone to mass took it off without any trouble. “It’s better that way,” Ursula 
stated as she said goodbye to them. “From now on everyone will know who you are.” They went off 
in a troop, preceded by a band of musicians and shooting off fireworks, and they left behind in the 
town an impression that the Buendia line had enough seed for many centuries. Aureliano Triste, 
with the cross of ashes on his forehead, set up on the edge of town the ice factory that Jose Arcadio 
Buendia had dreamed of in his inventive delirium. 

Some months after his arrival, when he was already well-known and well-liked, Aureliano Triste 
went about looking for a house so that he could send for his mother and an unmarried sister (who 
was not the colonel’s daughter), and he became interested in the run-down big house that looked 
abandoned on a corner of the square. Fie asked who owned it. Someone told him that it did not 
belong to anyone, that in former times a solitary widow who fed on earth and whitewash from the 
walls had lived there, and that in her last years she was seen only twice on the street with a hat of 
tiny artificial flowers and shoes the color of old silver when she crossed the square to the post office 
to mail a letter to the Bishop. They told him that her only companion was a pitiless servant woman 
who killed dogs and cats and any animal that got into the house and threw their corpses into the 
middle of the street in order to annoy people with the rotten stench. So much time had passed since 
the sun had mummified the empty skin of the last animal that everybody took it for granted that the 
lady of the house and the maid had died long before the wars were over, and that if the house was 
still standing it was because in recent years there had not been a rough winter or destructive wind. 
The hinges had cmmbled with mst, the doors were held up only by clouds of cobwebs, the windows 
were soldered shut by dampness, and the floor was broken by grass and wildflowers and in the 
cracks lizards and all manner of vermin had their nests, all of which seemed to confirm the notion 
that there had not been a human being there for at least half a century. The impulsive Aureliano 
Triste did not need such proof to proceed. Fie pushed on the main door with his shoulder and the 
worm-eaten wooden frame fell down noiselessly amid a dull cataclysm of dust and termite nests. 
Aureliano Triste stood on the threshold waiting for the dust to clear and then he saw in the center of 
the room the squalid woman, still dressed in clothing of the past century, with a few yellow threads 



on her bald head, and with two large eyes, still beautiful, in which the last stars of hope had gone 
out, and the skin of her face was wrinkled by the aridity of solitude. Shaken by that vision from 
another world, Aureliano Triste barely noticed that the woman was aiming an antiquated pistol at 

“I beg your pardon,” he murmured. 

She remained motionless in the center of the room filled with knickknacks, examining inch by 
inch the giant with square shoulders and with a tattoo of ashes on his forehead, and through the 
haze of dust she saw him in the haze of other times with a double-barreled shotgun on his shoulder 
and a string of rabbits in his hand. 

“For the love of God,” she said in a low voice, it’s not right for them to come to me with that 
memory now.” 

“I want to rent the house,” Aureliano Triste said. 

The woman then raised the pistol, aiming with a firm wrist at the cross of ashes, and she held the 
trigger with a determination against which there was no appeal. 

“Get out,” she ordered. 

That night at dinner Aureliano Triste told the family about the episode and Ursula wept with 
consternation. “Holy God!” she exclaimed, clutching her head with her hands. “She’s still alive!” 
Time, wars, the countless everyday disasters had made her forget about Rebeca. The only one who 
had not lost for a single minute the awareness that she was alive and rotting in her wormhole was 
the implacable and aging Amaranta. She thought of her at dawn, when the ice of her heart awakened 
her in her solitary bed, and she thought of her when she soaped her withered breasts and her lean 
stomach, and when she put on the white stiff-starched petticoats and corsets of old age, and when 
she changed the black bandage of terrible expiation on her hand. Always, at every moment, asleep 
and awake, during the most sublime and most abject moments, Amaranta thought about Rebeca, 
because solitude had made a selection in her memory and had burned the dimming piles of nostalgic 
waste that life had accumulated in her heart, and had purified, magnified and eternalized the others, 
the most bitter ones. Remedios the Beauty knew about Rebeca’s existence from her. Every time they 
passed the run-down house she would tell her about an unpleasant incident, a tale of hate, trying in 
that way to make her extended rancor be shared by her niece and consequently prolonged beyond 
death, but her plan did not work because Remedios was immune to any kind of passionate feelings 
and much less to those of others. Ursula, on the other hand, who had suffered through a process 
opposite to Amaranta’s, recalled Rebeca with a memory free of impurities, for the image of the 
pitiful child brought to the house with the bag containing her parents’ bones prevailed over the 
offense that had made her unworthy to be connected to the family tree any longer. Aureliano 
Segundo decided that they would have to bring her to the house and take care of her, but his good 
intentions were frustrated by the firm intransigence of Rebeca, who had needed many years of 
suffering and misery in order to attain the privileges of solitude and who was not disposed to 
renounce them in exchange for an old age disturbed by the false attractions of charity. 

In February, when the sixteen sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendfa returned, still marked with the 
cross of ashes, Aureliano Triste spoke to them about Rebeca in the tumult of the celebration and in 
half a day they restored the appearance of the house, changing doors and windows, painting the 
front with gay colors, bracing walls and pouring fresh cement on the floor, but they could not get 
any authorization to continue the work inside. Rebeca did not even come to the door. She let them 
finish the mad restoration, then calculated what it had cost and sent Argenida, her old servant who 
was still with her, to them with a handful of coins that had been withdrawn from circulation after 
the last war and that Rebeca thought were still worth something it was then that they saw to what a 
fantastic point her separation from the world had arrived and they understood that it would be 
impossible to rescue her from her stubborn enclosure while she still had a breath of life in her. 



On the second visit by the sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia to Macondo, another of them, 
Aureliano Centeno, stayed on to work with Aureliano Triste. He was one of the first who had been 
brought to the house for baptism and Ursula and Amaranta remembered him very well because in a 
few hours he had destroyed every breakable object that passed through his hands. Time had 
moderated his early impulse for growth and he was a man of average height marked by smallpox 
scars, but his amazing power for manual destruction remained intact. He broke so many plates, even 
without touching them, that Fernanda decided to buy him a set of pewterware before he did away 
with the last pieces of her expensive china, and even the resistant metal plates were soon dented and 
twisted. But to make up for that irremediable power, which was exasperating even for him, he had a 
cordiality that won the immediate confidence of others and a stupendous capacity for work. In a 
short time he had increased the production of ice to such a degree that it was too much for the local 
market and Aureliano Triste had to think about the possibility of expanding the business to other 
towns in the swamp. It was then that he thought of the decisive step, not only for the modernization 
of his business but to link the town with the rest of the world. 

“We have to bring in the railroad,” he said. 

That was the first time that the word had ever been heard in Macondo. Looking at the sketch 
that Aureliano Triste drew on the table and that was a direct descendent of the plans with which 
Jose Arcadio Buendia had illustrated his project for solar warfare, Ursula confirmed her impression 
that time was going in a circle. But unlike his forebear, Aureliano Triste did not lose any sleep or 
appetite nor did he torment anyone with crises of ill humor, but he considered the most harebrained 
of projects as immediate possibilities, made rational calculations about costs and dates, and brought 
them off without any intermediate exasperation. If Aureliano Segundo had something of his great¬ 
grandfather in him and lacked something of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, it was an absolute 
indifference to mockery, and he gave the money to bring the railroad with the same lighthearted air 
with which he had given it for his brother’s absurd navigation project. Aureliano Triste consulted 
the calendar and left the following Wednesday, planning to return after the rains had passed. There 
was no more news of him. Aureliano Centeno, overwhelmed by the abundance of the factory, had 
already begun to experiment with the production of ice with a base of fruit juices instead of water, 
and without knowing it or thinking about it, he conceived the essential fundamentals for the 
invention of sherbet. In that way he planned to diversify the production of an enterprise he 
considered his own, because his brother showed no signs of returning after the rains had passed and 
a whole summer had gone by with no news of him. At the start of another winter, however, a 
woman who was washing clothes in the river during the hottest time of the day ran screaming down 
the main street in an alarming state of commotion. 

“It’s coming,” she finally explained. “Something frightful, like a kitchen dragging a village behind 

At that moment the town was shaken by a whistle with a fearful echo and a loud, panting 
respiration. During the previous weeks they had seen the gangs who were laying ties and tracks and 
no one paid attention to them because they thought it was some new trick of the gypsies, coming 
back with whistles and tambourines and their age-old and discredited song and dance about the 
qualities of some concoction put together by journeyman geniuses of Jerusalem. But when they 
recovered from the noise of the whistles and the snorting, all the inhabitants ran out into the street 
and saw Aureliano Triste waving from the locomotive, and in a trance they saw the flower-bedecked 
train which was arriving for the first time eight months late. The innocent yellow train that was to 
bring so many ambiguities and certainties, so many pleasant and unpleasant moments, so many 
changes, calamities, and feelings of nostalgia to Macondo. 



Chapter 12 

DAZZLED BY SO MANY and such marvelous inventions, the people of Macondo did not know where 
their amazement began. They stayed up all night looking at the pale electric bulbs fed by the plant 
that Aureliano Triste had brought back when the train made its second trip, and it took time and 
effort for them to grow accustomed to its obsessive toom-toom. They be. came indignant over the 
living images that the prosperous merchant Bmno Crespi projected in the theater with the lion-head 
ticket windows, for the character who had died and was buried in one film and for whose 
misfortune tears of affliction had been shed would reappear alive and transformed into an Arab in 
the next one. The audience, who paid two cents apiece to share the difficulties of the actors, would 
not tolerate that outlandish fraud and they broke up the seats. The mayor, at the urging of Bruno 
Crespi, explained in a proclamation that the cinema was a machine of illusions that did not merit the 
emotional outbursts of the audience. With that discouraging explanation many felt that they had 
been the victims of some new and showy gypsy business and they decided not to return to the 
movies, considering that they already had too many troubles of their own to weep over the acted-out 
misfortunes of imaginary beings. Something similar happened with the cylinder phonographs that 
the merry matrons from France brought with them as a substitute for the antiquated hand organs 
and that for a time had serious effects on the livelihood of the band of musicians. At first curiosity 
increased the clientele on the forbidden street and there was even word of respectable ladies who 
disguised themselves as workers in order to observe the novelty of the phonograph from first hand, 
but from so much and such close observation they soon reached the conclusion that it was not an 
enchanted mill as everyone had thought and as the matrons had said, but a mechanical trick that 
could not be compared with something so moving, so human, and so full of everyday truth as a 
band of musicians. It was such a serious disappointment that when phonographs became so popular 
that there was one in every house they were not considered objects for amusement for adults but as 
something good for children to take apart. On the other hand, when someone from the town had 
the opportunity to test the crude reality of the telephone installed in the railroad station, which was 
thought to be a mdimentary version of the phonograph because of its crank, even the most 
incredulous were upset. It was as if God had decided to put to the test every capacity for surprise 
and was keeping the inhabitants of Macondo in a permanent alternation between excitement and 
disappointment, doubt and revelation, to such an extreme that no one knew for certain where the 
limits of reality lay. It was an intricate stew of truths and mirages that convulsed the ghost of Jose 
Arcadio Buendia under the chestnut tree with impatience and made him wander all through the 
house even in broad daylight. Ever since the railroad had been officially inaugurated and had begun 
to arrive with regularity on Wednesdays at eleven o’clock and the primitive wooden station with a 
desk, a telephone, and a ticket window had been built, on the streets of Macondo men and women 
were seen who had adopted everyday and normal customs and manners but who really looked like 
people out of a circus. In a town that had chafed under the tricks of the gypsies there was no future 
for those ambulatory acrobats of commerce who with equal effrontery offered a whistling kettle and 
a daily regime that would assure the salvation of the soul on the seventh day; but from those who let 
themselves be convinced out of fatigue and the ones who were always unwary, they reaped 
stupendous benefits. Among those theatrical creatures, wearing riding breeches and leggings, a pith 
helmet and steel-rimmed glasses, with topaz eyes and the skin of a thin rooster, there arrived in 
Macondo on one of so many Wednesdays the chubby and smiling Mr. Herbert, who ate at the 



No one had noticed him at the table until the first bunch of bananas had been eaten. Aureliano 
Segundo had come across him by chance as he protested In broken Spanish because there were no 
rooms at the Hotel Jacob, and as he frequently did with strangers, he took him home. He was in the 
captive-balloon business, which had taken him halfway around the world with excellent profits, but 
he had not succeeded in taking anyone up in Macondo because they considered that invention 
backward after having seen and tried the gypsies’ flying carpets. He was leaving, therefore, on the 
next train. When they brought to the table the tiger-striped bunch of bananas that they were 
accustomed to hang in the dining room during lunch, he picked the first piece of fruit without great 
enthusiasm. But he kept on eating as he spoke, tasting, chewing, more with the distraction of a wise 
man than with the delight of a good eater, and when he finished the first bunch he asked them to 
bring him another. Then he took a small case with optical instruments out of the toolbox that he 
always carried with him. With the auspicious attention of a diamond merchant he examined the 
banana meticulously, dissecting it with a special scalpel, weighing the pieces on a pharmacist’s scale, 
and calculating its breadth with a gunsmith’s calipers. Then he took a series of instruments out of 
the chest with which he measured the temperature, the level of humidity in the atmosphere, and the 
intensity of the light. It was such an intriguing ceremony that no one could eat in peace as everybody 
waited for Mr. Herbert to pass a final and revealing judgment, but he did not say anything that 
allowed anyone to guess his intentions. 

On the days that followed he was seen with a net and a small basket hunting butterflies on the 
outskirts of town. On Wednesday a group of engineers, agronomists, hydrologists, topographers, 
and surveyors arrived who for several weeks explored the places where Mr. Herbert had hunted his 
butterflies. Later on Mr. Jack Brown arrived in an extra coach that had been coupled onto the yellow 
train and that was silver-plated all over, with seats of episcopal velvet, and a roof of blue glass. Also 
arriving on the special car, fluttering around Mr. Brown, were the solemn lawyers dressed in black 
who in different times had followed Colonel Aureliano Buendia everywhere, and that led the people 
to think that the agronomists, hydrologists, topographers, and surveyors, like Mr. Herbert with his 
captive balloons and his colored butterflies and Mr. Brown with his mausoleum on wheels and his 
ferocious German shepherd dogs, had something to do with the war. There was not much time to 
think about it, however, because the suspicious inhabitants of Macondo barely began to wonder 
what the devil was going on when the town had already become transformed into an encampment 
of wooden houses with zinc roofs inhabited by foreigners who arrived on the train from halfway 
around the world, riding not only on the seats and platforms but even on the roof of the coaches. 
The gringos, who later on brought their languid wives in muslin dresses and large veiled hats, built a 
separate town across the railroad tracks with streets lined with palm trees, houses with screened win¬ 
dows, small white tables on the terraces, and fans mounted on the ceilings, and extensive blue lawns 
with peacocks and quails. The section was surrounded by a metal fence topped with a band of 
electrified chicken wire which during the cool summer mornings would be black with roasted 
swallows. No one knew yet what they were after, or whether they were actually nothing but 
philanthropists, and they had already caused a colossal disturbance, much more than that of the old 
gypsies, but less transitory and understandable. Endowed with means that had been reserved for 
Divine Providence in former times, they changed the pattern of the rams, accelerated the cycle of 
harvest, and moved the river from where it had always been and put it with its white stones and icy 
currents on the other side of the town, behind the cemetery. It was at that time that they built a 
fortress of reinforced concrete over the faded tomb of Jose Arcadio, so that the corpses smell of 
powder would not contaminate the waters. For the foreigners who arrived without love they 
converted the street of the loving matrons from France into a more extensive village than it had 
been, and on one glorious Wednesday they brought in a trainload of strange whores, Babylonish 
women skilled in age-old methods and in possession of all manner of unguents and devices to 



stimulate the unaroused, to give courage to the timid, to satiate the voracious, to exalt the modest 
man, to teach a lesson to repeaters, and to correct solitary people. The Street of the Turks, enriched 
by well-lit stores with products from abroad, displacing the old bazaars with their bright colors, 
overflowed on Saturday nights with the crowds of adventurers who bumped into each other among 
gambling tables, shooting galleries, the alley where the future was guessed and dreams interpreted, 
and tables of fried food and drinks, and on Sunday mornings there were scattered on the ground 
bodies that were sometimes those of happy dmnkards and more often those of onlookers felled by 
shots, fists, knives, and bottles during the brawls. It was such a tumultuous and intemperate invasion 
that during the first days it was impossible to walk through the streets because of the furniture and 
trunks, and the noise of the carpentry of those who were building their houses in any vacant lot 
without asking anyone’s permission, and the scandalous behavior of couples who hung their 
hammocks between the almond trees and made love under the netting in broad daylight and in view 
of everyone. The only serene corner had been established by peaceful West Indian Negroes, who 
built a marginal street with wooden houses on piles where they would sit in the doors at dusk 
singing melancholy hymns in their disordered gabble. So many changes took place in such a short 
time that eight months after Mr. Herbert’s visit the old inhabitants had a hard time recognizing their 
own town. 

“Look at the mess we’ve got ourselves into,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia said at that time, “just 
because we invited a gringo to eat some bananas.” 

Aureliano Segundo, on the other hand, could not contain his happiness over the avalanche of 
foreigners. The house was suddenly filled with unknown guests, with invincible and worldly 
carousers, and it became necessary to add bedrooms off the courtyard, widen the dining room, and 
exchange the old table for one that held sixteen people, with new china and silver, and even then 
they had to eat lunch in shifts. Fernanda had to swallow her scmples and their guests of the worst 
sort like kings as they muddied the porch with their boots, urinated in the garden, laid their mats 
down anywhere to take their siesta, and spoke without regard for the sensitivities of ladies or the 
proper behavior of gentlemen. Amaranta, was so scandalized with the plebeian invasion that she 
went back to eating in the kitchen as in olden days. Colonel Aureliano Buendia, convinced that the 
majority of those who came into Inis workshop to greet him were not doing it because of sympathy 
or regard but out of the curiosity to meet a historical relic, a museum fossil, decided to shut himself 
in by barring the door and he was not seen any more except on very rare occasions when he would 
sit at the street door. Ursula, on the other hand, even during the days when she was already dragging 
her feet and walking about groping along the walls, felt a juvenile excitement as the time for the 
arrival of the train approached. “We have to prepare some meat and fish,” she would order the four 
cooks, who hastened to have everything ready under the imperturbable direction of Santa Sofia de la 
Piedad. “We have to prepare everything,” she insisted, “because we never know what these strangers 
like to eat.” The train arrived during the hottest time of day. At lunchtime the house shook with the 
bustle of a marketplace, and the perspiring guests—who did not even know who their hosts were— 
trooped in to occupy the best places at the table, while the cooks bumped into each other with 
enormous kettles of soup, pots of meat, large gourds filled with vegetables, and troughs of rice, and 
passed around the contents of barrels of lemonade with inexhaustible ladles. The disorder was such 
that Fernanda was troubled by the idea that many were eating twice and on more than one occasion 
she was about to burst out with a vegetable hawker’s insults because someone at the table in 
confusion asked her for the check. More than a year had gone by since Mr. Herbert’s visit and the 
only thing that was known was that the gringos were planning to plant banana trees in the enchanted 
region that Jose Arcadio Buendia and his men had crossed in search of the route to the great 
inventions. Two other sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendia, with the cross of ashes on their 



foreheads, arrived, drawn by that great volcanic belch, and they justified their determination with a 
phrase that may have explained everybody’s reasons. 

“We came,” they said, “because everyone is coming.” 

Remedios the Beauty was the only one who was immune to the banana plague. She was becalmed 
in a magnificent adolescence, more and more impenetrable to formality, more and more indifferent 
to malice and suspicion, happy in her own world of simple realities. She did not understand why 
women complicated their lives with corsets and petticoats, so she sewed herself a coarse cassock that 
she simply put over her and without further difficulties resolved the problem of dress, without 
taking away the feeling of being naked, which according to her lights was the only decent way to be 
when at home. They bothered her so much to cut the rain of hair that already reached to her thighs 
and to make rolls with combs and braids with red ribbons that she simply shaved her head and used 
the hair to make wigs for the saints. The startling thing about her simplifying instinct was that the 
more she did away with fashion in a search for comfort and the more she passed over conventions 
as she obeyed spontaneity, the more disturbing her incredible beauty became and the more 
provocative she became to men. When the sons of Colonel Aureliano Buendfa were in Macondo for 
the first time, Ursula remembered that in their veins they bore the same blood as her great- 
granddaughter and she shuddered with a forgotten fright. “Keep your eyes wide open,” she warned 
her. “With any of them your children will come out with the tail of a pig.” The girl paid such little 
attention to the warning that she dressed up as a man and rolled around in the sand in order to 
climb the greased pole, and she was at the point of bringing on a tragedy among the seventeen 
cousins, who were driven mad by the unbearable spectacle. That was why none of them slept at the 
house when they visited the town and the four who had stayed lived in rented rooms at Ursula’s 
insistence. Remedios the Beauty, however, would have died laughing if she had known about that 
precaution. Until her last moment on earth she was unaware that her irreparable fate as a disturbing 
woman was a daily disaster. Every time she appeared in the dining room, against Ursula’s orders, she 
caused a panic of exasperation among the outsiders. It was all too evident that she was completely 
naked underneath her crude nightshirt and no one could understand that her shaved and perfect 
skull was not some kind of challenge, and that the boldness with which she uncovered her thighs to 
cool off was not a criminal provocation, nor was her pleasure when she sucked her fingers after, 
eating. What no member of the family ever knew was that the strangers did not take long to realize 
that Remedios the Beauty gave off a breath of perturbation, a tormenting breeze that was still 
perceptible several hours after she had passed by. Men expert in the disturbances of love, 
experienced all over the world, stated that they had never suffered an anxiety similar to the one 
produced by the natural smell of Remedios the Beauty. On the porch with the begonias, in the 
parlor, in any place in the house, it was possible to point out the exact place where she had been and 
the time that had passed since she had left it. It was a definite, unmistakable trace that no one in the 
family could distinguish because it had been incorporated into the daily odors for a long time, but it 
was one that the outsiders identified immediately. They were the only ones, therefore, who 
understood how the young commander of the guard had died of love and how a gentleman from a 
faraway land had been plunged into desperation. Unaware of the restless circle in which she moved, 
of the unbearable state of intimate calamity that she provoked as she passed by, Remedios the 
Beauty treated the men without the least bit of malice and in the end upset them with her innocent 
complaisance. When Ursula succeeded in imposing the command that she eat with Amaranta in the 
kitchen so that the outsiders would not see her, she felt more comfortable, because, after all, she was 
beyond all discipline. In reality, it made no difference to her where she ate, and not at regular hours 
but according to the whims of her appetite. Sometimes she would get up to have lunch at three in 
the morning, sleep all day long, and she spent several months with her timetable all in disarray until 
some casual incident would bring her back into the order of tilings. When things were going better 



she would get up at eleven o’clock in the morning and shut herself up until two o’clock, completely 
nude, in the bathroom, killing scorpions as she came out of her dense and prolonged sleep. Then 
she would throw water from the cistern over herself with a gourd. It was an act so prolonged, so 
meticulous, so rich in ceremonial aspects that one who did not know her well would have thought 
that she was given over to the deserved adoration of her own body. For her, however, that solitary 
rite lacked all sensuality and was simply a way of passing the time until she was hungry. One day, as 
she began to bathe herself, a stranger lifted a tile from the roof and was breathless at the tremendous 
spectacle of her nudity. She saw his desolate eyes through the broken tiles and had no reaction of 
shame but rather one of alarm. 

“Be careful,” she exclaimed. “You’ll fall.” 

“I just wanted to see you,” the foreigner murmured. 

“Oh, all right,” she said. “But be careful, those tiles are rotten.” 

The stranger’s face had a pained expression of stupor and he seemed to be battling silently 
against his primary instincts so as not to break up the mirage. Remedios the Beauty thought that he 
was suffering from the fear that the tiles would break and she bathed herself more quickly than usual 
so that the man would not be in danger. While she was pouring water from the, cistern she told him 
that the roof was in that state because she thought that the bed of leaves had been rotted by the rain 
and that was what was filling the bathroom with scorpions. The stranger thought that her small talk 
was a way of covering her complaisance, so that when she began to soap herself he gave into 
temptation and went a step further. 

“Let me soap you,” he murmured. 

“Thank you for your good intentions,” she said, “but my two hands are quite enough.” 

“Even if it’s just your back,” the foreigner begged. 

“That would be silly,” she said. “People never soap their backs.” 

Then, while she was drying herself, the stranger begged her, with his eyes full of tears, to marry 
him. She answered him sincerely that she would never marry a man who was so simple that he had 
wasted almost an hour and even went without lunch just to see a woman taking a bath. Finally, when 
she put on her cassock, the man could not bear the proof that, indeed, she was not wearing anything 
underneath, as everyone had suspected, and he felt himself marked forever with the white-hot iron 
of that secret. Then he took two more tiles off in order to drop down into the bathroom. 

“It’s very high,” she warned him in fright. “You’ll kill yourself!” 

The rotten tiles broke with a noise of disaster and the man barely had time to let out a cry of 
terror as he cracked his skull and was killed outright on the cement floor. The foreigners who heard 
the noise in the dining room and hastened to remove the body noticed the suffocating odor of 
Remedios the Beauty on his skin. It was so deep in his body that the cracks in his skull did not give 
off blood but an amber-colored oil that was impregnated with that secret perfume, and then they 
understood that the smell of Remedios the Beauty kept on torturing men beyond death, right down 
to the dust of their bones. Nevertheless, they did not relate that horrible accident to the other two 
men who had died because of Remedios the Beauty. A victim was still needed before the outsiders 
and many of the old inhabitants of Macondo would credit the legend that Remedios Buendia did not 
give off a breath of love but a fatal emanation. The occasion for the proof of it came some months 
later on one afternoon when Remedios the Beauty went with a group of girl friends to look at the 
new plantings. For the girls of Macondo that novel game was reason for laughter and surprises, 
frights and jokes, and at night they would talk about their walk as if it had been an experience in a 
dream. Such was the prestige of that silence that Ursula did not have the heart to take the fun away 
from Remedios the Beauty, and she let her go one afternoon, providing that she wore a hat and a 
decent dress. As soon as the group of friends went into the plantings the air became impregnated 
with a fatal fragrance. The men who were working along the rows felt possessed by a strange 



fascination, menaced by some invisible danger, and many succumbed to a terrible desire to weep. 
Remedios the Beauty and her startled friends managed to take refuge in a nearby house just as they 
were about to be assaulted by a pack of ferocious males. A short time later they were rescued by the 
flour Aurelianos, whose crosses of ash inspired a sacred respect, as if they were caste marks, stamps 
of invulnerability. Remedios the Beauty did not tell anyone that one of the men, taking advantage of 
the tumult, had managed to attack her stomach with a hand that was more like the claw of an eagle 
clinging to the edge of a precipice. She faced the attacker in a kind of instantaneous flash and saw 
the disconsolate eyes, which remained stamped on her heart like the hot coals of pity. That night the 
man boasted of his audacity and swaggered over his good luck on the Street of the Turks a few 
minutes before the kick of a horse cmshed his chest and a crowd of outsiders saw him die in the 
middle of the street, drowned in his own bloody vomiting. 

The supposition that Remedios the Beauty Possessed powers of death was then borne out by 
four irrefutable events. Although some men who were easy with their words said that it was worth 
sacrificing one’s life for a night of love with such an arousing woman, the tmth was that no one 
made any effort to do so. Perhaps, not only to attain her but also to conjure away her dangers, all 
that was needed was a feeling as primitive and as simple as that of love, but that was the only thing 
that did not occur to anyone. Ursula did not worry about her any more. On another occasion, when 
she had not yet given up the idea of saving her for the world, she had tried to get her interested in 
basic domestic affairs. “Men demand much more than you think,” she would tell her enigmatically. 
“There’s a lot of cooking, a lot of sweeping, a lot of suffering over little things beyond what you 
think.” She was deceiving herself within, trying to train her for domestic happiness because she was 
convinced that once his passion was satisfied them would not be a man on the face of the earth 
capable of tolerating even for a day a negligence that was beyond all understanding. The birth of the 
latest Jose Arcadio and her unshakable will to bring him up to be Pope finally caused her to cease 
worrying about her great-granddaughter. She abandoned her to her fate, trusting that sooner or later 
a miracle would take place and that in this world of everything there would also be a man with 
enough sloth to put up with her. For a long time already Amaranta had given up trying to make her 
into a useful woman. Since those forgotten afternoons when her niece barely had enough interest to 
turn the crank on the sewing machine, she had reached the conclusion that she was simpleminded. 
“Were going to have to raffle you off,” she would tell her, perplexed at the fact that men’s words 
would not penetrate her. Later on, when Ursula insisted that Remedios the Beauty go to mass with 
her face covered with a shawl, Amaranta thought that a mysterious recourse like that would turn out 
to be so provoking that soon a man would come who would be intrigued enough to search out 
patiently for the weak point of her heart. But when she saw the stupid way in which she rejected a 
pretender who for many reasons was more desirable than a prince, she gave up all hope. Fernanda 
did not even make any attempt to understand her. When she saw Remedios the Beauty dressed as a 
queen at the bloody carnival she thought that she was an extraordinary creature. But when she saw 
her eating with her hands, incapable of giving an answer that was not a miracle of simplemind¬ 
edness, the only thing that she lamented was the fact that the idiots in the family lived so long. In 
spite of the fact that Colonel Aureliano Buendia kept on believing and repeating that Remedios the 
Beauty was in reality the most lucid being that he had ever known and that she showed it at every 
moment with her startling ability to put things over on everyone, they let her go her own way. 
Remedios the Beauty stayed there wandering through the desert of solitude, bearing no cross on her 
back, maturing in her dreams without nightmares, her interminable baths, her unscheduled meals, 
her deep and prolonged silences that had no memory until one afternoon in March, when Fernanda 
wanted to fold her brabant sheets in the garden and asked the women in the house for help. She had 
just begun when Amaranta noticed that Remedios the Beauty was covered all over by an intense 



“Don’t you feel well?” she asked her. 

Remedios the Beauty, who was clutching the sheet by the other end, gave a pitying smile. 

“Quite the opposite,” she said, “I never felt better.” 

She had just finished saying it when Fernanda felt a delicate wind of light pull the sheets out of 
her hands and open them up wide. Amaranta felt a mysterious trembling in the lace on her 
petticoats and she tried to grasp the sheet so that she would not fall down at the instant in which 
Remedios the Beauty began to rise. Ursula, almost blind at the time, was the only person who was 
sufficiently calm to identify the nature of that determined wind and she left the sheets to the mercy 
of the light as she watched Remedios the Beauty waving good-bye in the midst of the flapping 
sheets that rose up with her, abandoning with her the environment of beetles and dahlias and 
passing through the air with her as four o’clock in the afternoon came to an end, and they were lost 
forever with her in the upper atmosphere where not even the highest-flying birds of memory could 
reach her. 

The outsiders, of course, thought that Remedios the Beauty had finally succumbed to her 
irrevocable fate of a queen bee and that her family was trying to save her honor with that tale of 
levitation. Fernanda, burning with envy, finally accepted the miracle, and for a long time she kept on 
praying to God to send her back her sheets. Most people believed in the miracle and they even 
lighted candles and celebrated novenas. Perhaps there might have been talk of nothing else for a 
long time if the barbarous extermination of the Aurelianos had not replaced amazement with honor. 
Although he had never thought of it as an omen, Colonel Aureliano Buendia had foreseen the tragic 
end of his sons in a certain way. When Aureliano Serrador and Aureliano Arcaya, the two who 
arrived during the tumult, expressed a wish to stay in Macondo, their father tried to dissuade them. 
Fie could not understand what they were going to do in a town that had been transformed into a 
dangerous place overnight. But Aureliano Centeno and Aureliano Triste, backed by Aureliano 
Segundo. gave them work in their businesses. Colonel Aureliano Buendia had reasons that were still 
very confused and were against that determination. When he saw Mr. Brown in the first automobile 
to reach Macondo—an orange convertible with a horn that frightened dogs with its bark—the old 
soldier grew indignant with the servile excitement of the people and he realized that something had 
changed in the makeup of the men since the days when they would leave their wives and children 
and toss a shotgun on their shoulders to go off to war. The local authorities, after the armistice of 
Neerlandia, were mayors without initiative, decorative judges picked from among the peaceful and 
tired Conservatives of Macondo. “This is a regime of wretches,” Colonel Aureliano Buendia would 
comment when he saw the barefoot policemen armed with wooden clubs pass. “We fought all those 
wars and all of it just so that we didn’t have to paint our houses blue.” When the banana company 
arrived, however, the local functionaries were replaced by dictatorial foreigners whom Mr. Brown 
brought to live in the electrified chicken yard so that they could enjoy, as he explained it, the dignity 
that their status warranted and so that they would not suffer from the heat and the mosquitoes and 
the countless discomforts and privations of the town. The old policemen were replaced by hired 
assassins with machetes. Shut up in his workshop, Colonel Aureliano Buendia thought about those 
changes and for the first time in his quiet years of solitude he was tormented by the definite certainty 
that it had been a mistake not to have continued the war to its final conclusion. During that time a 
brother of the forgotten Colonel Magnlfico Visbal was taking his seven-year-old grandson to get a 
soft drink at one of the pushcarts on the square and because the child accidentally bumped into a 
corporal of police and spilled the drink on his uniform, the barbarian cut him to pieces with his 
machete, and with one stroke he cut off the head of the grandfather as he tried to stop him. The 
whole town saw the decapitated man pass by as a group of men carried him to his house, with a 
woman dragging the head along by its hair, and the bloody sack with the pieces of the child. 



For Colonel Aureliano Buendia it meant the limits of atonement. He suddenly found himself 
suffering from the same indignation that he had felt in his youth over the body of the woman who 
had been beaten to death because she had been bitten by a rabid dog. He looked at the groups of 
bystanders in front of the house and with his old stentorian voice, restored by a deep disgust with 
himself, he unloaded upon them the burden of hate that he could no longer bear in his heart. 

“One of these days,” he shouted, I’m going to arm my boys so we can get rid of these shitty 

During the course of that week, at different places along the coast, his seventeen sons were 
hunted down like rabbits by invisible criminals who aimed at the center of their crosses of ash. 
Aureliano Triste was leaving the house with his mother at seven in the evening when a rifle shot 
came out of the darkness and perforated his forehead. Aureliano Centeno was found in the 
hammock that he was accustomed to hang up in the factory with an icepick between his eyebrows 
driven in up to the handle. Aureliano Serrador had left his girl friend at her parents’ house after 
having taken her to the movies and was returning through the well-lighted Street of the Turks when 
someone in the crowd who was never identified fired a revolver shot which knocked him over into a 
caldron of boiling lard. A few minutes later someone knocked at the door of the room where 
Aureliano Arcaya was shut up with a woman and shouted to him: “Hurry up, they’re killing your 
brothers.” The woman who was with him said later that Aureliano Arcaya jumped out of bed and 
opened the door and was greeted with the discharge of a Mauser that split his head open. On that 
night of death, while the house was preparing to hold a wake for the four corpses, Fernanda ran 
through the town like a madwoman looking for Aureliano Segundo, whom Petra Cotes had locked 
up in a closet, thinking that the order of extermination included all who bore the colonel’s name. 
She would not let him out until the fourth day, when the telegrams received from different places 
along the coast made it clear that the fury of the invisible enemy was directed only at the brothers 
marked with the crosses of ash. Amaranta fetched the ledger where she had written down the facts 
about her nephews and as the telegrams arrived she drew lines through the names until only that of 
the eldest remained. They remembered him very well because of the contrast between his dark skin 
and his green eyes. His name was Aureliano Amador and he was a carpenter, living in a village 
hidden in the foothills. After waiting two weeks for the telegram telling of his death, Aureliano 
Segundo sent a messenger to him in order to warn him, thinking that he might not know about the 
threat that hung over him. The emissary returned with the news that Aureliano Amador was safe. 
The night of the extermination two men had gone to get him at his house and had shot at him with 
their revolvers but they had missed the cross of ashes. Aureliano Amador had been able to leap over 
the wall of the courtyard and was lost in the labyrinth of the mountains, which he knew like the back 
of his hand thanks to the friendship he maintained with the Indians, from whom he bought wood. 
Nothing more was heard of him. 

Those were dark days for Colonel Aureliano Buendia. The president of the republic sent him a 
telegram of condolence in which he promised an exhaustive investigation and paid homage to the 
dead men. At his command, the mayor appeared at the services with four funeral wreaths, which he 
tried to place on the coffins, but the colonel ordered him into the street. After the burial he drew up 
and personally submitted to the president of the republic a violent telegram, which the telegrapher 
refused to send. Then he enriched it with terms of singular aggressiveness, put it in an envelope, and 
mailed it. As had happened with the death of his wife, as had happened to him so many times during 
the war with the deaths of his best friends, he did not have a feeling of sorrow but a blind and 
directionless rage, a broad feeling of impotence. He even accused Father Antonio Isabel of 
complicity for having marked his sons with indelible ashes so that they-could be identified by their 
enemies. The decrepit priest, who could no longer string ideas together and who was beginning to 
startle his parishioners with the wild interpretations he gave from the pulpit, appeared one afternoon 



at the house with the goblet in which he had prepared the ashes that Wednesday and he tried to 
anoint the whole family with them to show that they could be washed off with water. But the horror 
of the misfortune had penetrated so deeply that not even Fernanda would let him experiment on her 
and never again was a Buendia seen to kneel at the altar rail on Ash Wednesday. 

Colonel Aureliano Buendia did not recover his calm for a long time. He abandoned the 
manufacture of little fishes, ate with great difficulty, and wandered all through the house as if 
walking in his sleep, dragging his blanket and chewing on his quiet rage. At the end of three months 
his hair was ashen, his old waxed mustache poured down beside his colorless lips, but, on the other 
hand, his eyes were once more the burning coals that had startled those who had seen him born and 
that in other days had made chairs rock with a simple glance. In the fury of his torment he tried 
futilely to rouse the omens that had guided his youth along dangerous paths into the desolate 
wasteland of glory. He was lost, astray in a strange house where nothing and no one now stirred in 
him the slightest vestige of affection. Once he opened Melquiades’ room, looking for the traces of a 
past from before the war, and he found only mbble, trash, piles of waste accumulated over all the 
years of abandonment. Between the covers of the books that no one had ever read again, in the old 
parchments damaged by dampness, a livid flower had prospered, and in the air that had been the 
purest and brightest in the house an unbearable smell of rotten memories floated. One morning he 
found Ursula weeping under the chestnut tree at the knees of her dead husband. Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia was the only inhabitant of the house who still did not see the powerful old man who had 
been beaten down by half a century in the open air. “Say hello to your father,” Ursula told him. He 
stopped for an instant in front of the chestnut tree and once again he saw that the empty space 
before him did not arouse an affection either. 

“What does he say?” he asked. 

“He’s very sad,” Ursula answered, “because he thinks that you’re going to die.” 

“Tell him,” the colonel said, smiling, “that a person doesn’t die when he should but when he 

The omen of the, dead father stirred up the last remnant of pride that was left in his heart, but he 
confused it with a sudden gust of strength. It was for that reason that he hounded Ursula to tell him 
where in the courtyard the gold coins that they had found inside the plaster Saint Joseph were 
buried. “You’ll never know,” she told him with a firmness inspired by an old lesson. “One day,” she 
added, “the owner of that fortune will appear and only he can dig it up.” No one knew why a man 
who had always been so generous had begun to covet money with such anxiety, and not the modest 
amounts that would have been enough to resolve an emergency, but a fortune of such mad size that 
the mere mention of it left Aureliano Segundo awash in amazement. His old fellow party members, 
to whom he went asking for help, hid so as not to receive him. It was around that time that he was 
heard to say. “The only difference today between Liberals and Conservatives is that the Liberals go 
to mass at five o’clock and the Conservatives at eight.” Nevertheless he insisted with such 
perseverance, begged in such a way, broke his code of dignity to such a degree, that with a little help 
from here and a little more from there, sneaking about everywhere, with a slippery diligence and a 
pitiless perseverance, he managed to put together in eight months more money than Ursula had 
buried. Then he visited the ailing Colonel Gerineldo Marquez so that he would help him start the 
total war. 

At a certain time Colonel Gerineldo Marquez was really the only one who could have pulled, 
even from his paralytics chair, the musty strings of rebellion. After the armistice of Neerlandia, while 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia took refuge with his little gold fishes, he kept in touch with the rebel 
officers who had been faithful to him until the defeat. With them he waged the sad war of daily 
humiliation, of entreaties and petitions, of come-back-tomorrow, of any-time-now, of we’re- 
studying-your-case-with-the-proper-attention; the war hopelessly lost against the many yours-most- 



trulys who should have signed and would never sign the lifetime pensions. The other war, the 
bloody one of twenty years, did not cause them as much damage as the corrosive war of eternal 
postponements. Even Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, who escaped three attempts on his life, survived 
five wounds, and emerged unscathed from innumerable battles, succumbed to that atrocious siege of 
waiting and sank into the miserable defeat of old age, thinking of Amaranta among the diamond¬ 
shaped patches of light in a borrowed house. The last veterans of whom he had word had appeared 
photographed in a newspaper with their faces shamelessly raised beside an anonymous president of 
the republic who gave them buttons with Inis likeness on them to wear in their lapels and returned to 
them a flag soiled with blood and gunpowder so that they could place it on their coffins. The others, 
more honorable, were still waiting for a letter in the shadow of public charity, dying of hunger, living 
through rage, ratting of old age amid the exquisite shit of glory. So that when Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia invited him to start a mortal conflagration that would wipe out all vestiges of a regime of 
corruption and scandal backed by the foreign invader, Colonel Gerineldo Marquez could not hold 
back a shudder of compassion. 

“Oh, Aureliano,” he sighed. “I already knew that you were old, but now I realize that you’re a lot 
older than you look.” 



Chapter 13 

IN THE BEWILDERMENT of her last years, Ursula had had very little free time to attend to the papal 
education of Jose Arcadio, and the time came for him to get ready to leave for the seminary right 
away. Meme, his sister, dividing her time between Fernanda’s rigidity and Amaranta’s bitterness, at 
almost the same moment reached the age set for her to be sent to the nuns’ school, where they 
would make a virtuoso on the clavichord of her. Ursula felt tormented by grave doubts concerning 
the effectiveness of the methods with which she had molded the spirit of the languid apprentice 
Supreme Pontiff, but she did not put the blame on her staggering old age or the dark clouds that 
barely permitted her to make out the shape of things, but on something that she herself could not 
really define and that she conceived confusedly as a progressive breakdown of time. “The years 
nowadays don’t pass the way the old ones used to,” she would say, feeling that everyday reality was 
slipping through her hands. In the past, she thought, children took a long time to grow up. All one 
had to do was remember all the time needed for Jose Arcadio, the elder, to go away with the gypsies 
and all that happened before he came back painted like a snake and talking like an astronomer, and 
the things that happened in the house before Amaranta and Arcadio forgot the language of the 
Indians and learned Spanish. One had to see only the days of sun and dew that poor Jose Arcadio 
Buendia went through under the chestnut tree and all the time weeded to mourn his death before 
they brought in a dying Colonel Aureliano Buendia, who after so much war and so much suffering 
from it was still not fifty years of age. In other times, after spending the whole day making candy 
animals, she had more than enough time for the children, to see from the whites of their eyes that 
they needed a dose of castor oil. Now, however, when she had nothing to do and would go about 
with Jose Arcadio riding on her hip from dawn to dusk, this bad kind of time compelled her to leave 
things half done. The truth was that Ursula resisted growing old even when she had already lost 
count of her age and she was a bother on all sides as she tried to meddle in everything and as she 
annoyed strangers with her questions as to whether they had left a plaster Saint Joseph to be kept 
until the rains were over during the days of the war. No one knew exactly when she had begun to 
lose her sight. Even in her later years, when she could no longer get out of bed, it seemed that she 
was simply defeated by decrepitude, but no one discovered that she was blind. She had noticed it 
before the birth of Jose Arcadio. At first she thought it was a matter of a passing debility and she 
secretly took marrow syrup and put honey on her eyes, but quite soon she began to realize that she 
was irrevocably sinking into the darkness, to a point where she never had a clear notion of the 
invention of the electric light, for when they put in the first bulbs she was only able to perceive the 
glow. She did not tell anyone about it because it would have been a public recognition of her 
uselessness. She concentrated on a silent schooling in the distances of tilings and peoples voices, so 
that she would still be able to see with her memory what the shadows of her cataracts no longer 
allowed her to. Later on she was to discover the unforeseen help of odors, which were defined in 
the shadows with a strength that was much more convincing than that of bulk and color, and which 
saved her finally from the shame of admitting defeat. In the darkness of the room she was able to 
thread a needle and sew a buttonhole and she knew when the milk was about to boil. She knew with 
so much certainty the location of everything that she herself forgot that she was blind at times. On 
one occasion Fernanda had the whole house upset because she had lost her wedding ring, and 
Ursula found it on a shelf in the children’s bedroom. Quite simply, while the others were going 
carelessly all about, she watched them with her four senses so that they never took her by surprise, 
and after some time she discovered that every member of the family, without realizing it, repeated 
the same path every day, the same actions, and almost repeated the same words at the same hour. 



Only when they deviated from meticulous routine did they run the risk of losing something. So 
when she heard Fernanda all upset be cause she had lost her ring, Ursula remembered that the only 
thing different that she had done that day was to put the mattresses out in the sun because Meme 
had found a bedbug the might before. Since the children had been present at the fumigation, Ursula 
figured that Fernanda had put the ring in the only place where they could not reach it: the shelf. 
Fernanda, on the other hand, looked for it in vain along the paths of her everyday itinerary without 
knowing that the search for lost tilings is hindered by routine habits and that is why it is so difficult 
to find them. 

The rearing of Jose Arcadio helped Ursula in the exhausting task of keeping herself up to date on 
the smallest changes in the house. When she realized that Amaranta was dressing the saints in the 
bedroom she pretended to show the boy the differences in the colors. 

“Let’s see,” she would tell him. “Tell me what color the Archangel Raphael is wearing.” 

In that way the child gave her the information that was denied her by her eyes, and long before 
he went away to the seminary Ursula could already distinguish the different colors of the saints’ 
clothing by the texture. Sometimes unforeseen accidents would happen. One afternoon when 
Amaranta was ‘embroidering on the porch with the begonias Ursula bumped into her. 

“For heaven’s sake,” Amaranta protested, “watch where you’re going.” 

“It’s your fault,” Ursula said. “You’re not sitting where you’re supposed to.” 

She was sure of it. But that day she began to realize something that no one had noticed and it was 
that with the passage of the year the sun imperceptibly changed position and those who sat on the 
porch had to change their position little by little without being aware of it. From then on Ursula had 
only to remember the date in order to know exactly where Amaranta was sitting. Even though the 
trembling of her hands was more and more noticeable and the weight of her feet was too much for 
her, her small figure was never seen in so many places at the same time. She was almost as diligent as 
when she had the whole weight of the house on her shoulders. Nevertheless, in the impenetrable 
solitude of decrepitude she had such clairvoyance as she examined the most insignificant happenings 
in the family that for the first time she saw clearly the truths that her busy life in former times had 
prevented her from seeing. Around the time they were preparing Jose Arcadio for the seminary she 
had already made a detailed recapitulation of life in the house since the founding of Macondo and 
had completely changed the opinion that she had always held of her descendants. She realized that 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia had not lost his love for the family because he had been hardened by the 
war, as she had thought before, but that he had never loved anyone, not even his wife Remedios or 
the countless one-night women who had passed through his life, and much less his sons. She sensed 
that he had fought so many wars not out of idealism, as everyone had thought, nor had he 
renounced a certain victory because of fatigue, as everyone had thought, but that he had won and 
lost for the same reason, pure and sinful pride. She reached the conclusion that the son for whom 
she would have given her life was simply a man incapable of love. One night when she was carrying 
him in her belly she heard him weeping. It was such a definite lament that Jose Arcadio Buendia 
woke up beside her and was happy with the idea that his son was going to be a ventriloquist. Other 
people predicted that he would be a prophet. She, on the other hand, shuddered from the certainty 
that the deep moan was a first indication of the fearful pig tail and she begged God to let the child 
die in her womb. But the lucidity of her old age allowed her to see, and she said so many times, that 
the cries of children in their mothers’ wombs are not announcements of ventriloquism or a faculty 
for prophecy but an unmistakable sign of an incapacity for love. The lowering of the image of her 
son brought out in her all at once all the compassion that she owed him. Amaranta, however, whose 
hardness of heart frightened her, whose concentrated bitterness made her bitter, suddenly became 
clear to her in the final analysis as the most tender woman who had ever existed, and she understood 
with pitying clarity that the unjust tortures to which she had submitted Pietro Crespi had not been 



dictated by a desire for vengeance, as everyone had thought, nor had the slow martyrdom with 
which she had frustrated the life of Colonel Gerineldo Marquez been determined by the gall of her 
bitterness, as everyone had thought, but that both actions had been a mortal struggle between a 
measureless love and an invincible cowardice, and that the irrational fear that Amaranta had always 
had of her own tormented heart had triumphed in the end. It was during that time that Ursula, 
began to speak Rebeca’s name, bringing back the memory of her with an old love that was exalted 
by tardy repentance and a sudden admiration, coming to understand that only she, Rebeca, the one 
who had never fed of her milk but only of the earth of the land and the whiteness of the walls, the 
one who did not carry the blood of her veins in hers but the unknown blood of the strangers whose 
bones were still c/odng in their grave. Rebeca, the one with an impatient heart, the one with a fierce 
womb, was the only one who bad the unbridled courage that Ursula had wanted for her line. 

“Rebeca,” she would say, feeling along the walls, “how unfair we’ve been to you!” 

In the house they simply thought that her mind was wandering, especially since the time she had 
begun walking about with her right arm raised like the Archangel Gabriel. Fernanda, however, 
realized that there was a sun of clairvoyance in the shadows of that wandering, for Ursula could say 
without hesitation how much money had been spent in the house during the previous year. 
Amaranta had a similar idea one day as her mother was stirring a pot of soup in the kitchen and said 
all at once without knowing that they were listening to her that the corn grinder they had bought 
from the first gypsies and that had disappeared during the time before Jose Arcadio, had taken his 
sixty-five trips around the world was still in Pilar Ternera’s house. Also almost a hundred years old, 
but fit and agile in spite of her inconceivable fatness, which frightened children as her laughter had 
frightened the doves in other times. Pilar Ternera was not surprised that Ursula was correct because 
her own experience was beginning to tell her that an alert old age can be more keen than the cards. 

Nevertheless, when Ursula realized that she had not had enough time to consolidate the vocation 
of Jose Arcadio, she let herself be disturbed by consternation. She began to make mistakes, trying to 
see with her eyes the tilings that intuition allowed her to see with greater clarity. One morning she 
poured the contents of an inkwell over the boy’s head thinking that it was rose water. She stumbled 
so much in her insistence in taking part in everything that she felt herself upset by gusts of bad 
humor and she tried to get rid of the shadows that were beginning to wrap her in a straitjacket of 
cobwebs. It was then that it occurred to her that her clumsiness was not the first victory of 
decrepitude and darkness but a sentence passed by time. She thought that previously, when God did 
not make the same traps out of the months and years that the Turks used when they measured a 
yard of percale, things were different. Now children not only grew faster, but even feelings 
developed in a different way. No sooner had Remedios the Beauty ascended to heaven in body and 
soul than the inconsiderate Fernanda was going about mumbling to herself because her sheets had 
been carried off. The bodies of the Aurelianos were no sooner cold in their graves than Aureliano 
Segundo had the house lighted up again, filled with drunkards playing the accordion and dousing 
themselves in champagne, as if dogs and not Christians had died, and as if that madhouse which had 
cost her so many headaches and so many candy animals was destined to become a trash heap of 
perdition. Remembering those tilings as she prepared Jose Arcadio’s trunk, Ursula wondered if it 
was not preferable to lie down once and for all in her grave and let them throw the earth over her, 
and she asked God, without fear, if he really believed that people were made of iron in order to bear 
so many troubles and mortifications, and asking over and over she was stirring up her own 
confusion and she felt irrepressible desires to let herself go and scamper about like a foreigner and 
allow herself at last an instant of rebellion, that instant yearned for so many times and so many times 
postponed, putting her resignation aside and shitting on everything once and for all and drawing out 
of her heart the infinite stacks of bad words that she had been forced to swallow over a century of 



“Shit!” she shouted. 

Amaranta, who was starting to put the clothes into the trunk, thought that she had been bitten by 
a scorpion. 

“Where is it?” she asked in alarm. 


“The bug!” Amaranta said. 

Ursula put a finger on her heart. 

“Here,” she said. 

On Thursday, at two in the afternoon, Jose Arcadio left for the seminary. ‘Ursula would 
remember him always as she said good-bye to him, languid and serious, without shedding a tear, as 
she had taught him, sweltering in the heat in the green corduroy suit with copper buttons and a 
starched bow around his neck. He left the dining room impregnated with the penetrating fragrance 
of rose water that she had sprinkled on his head so that she could follow his tracks through the 
house. While the farewell lunch was going on, the family concealed its nervousness with festive 
expressions and they celebrated with exaggerated enthusiasm the remarks that Father Antonio Isabel 
made. But when they took out the trunk bound in velvet and with silver corners, it was as if they had 
taken a coffin out of the house. The only one who refused to take part in the farewell was Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia. 

“That’s all we need,” he muttered. “A Pope!” 

Three months later Aureliano Segundo and Fernanda took Meme to school and came back with a 
clavichord, which took the place of the pianola. It was around that time that Amaranta started 
sewing her own shroud. The banana fever had calmed down. The old inhabitants of Macondo found 
themselves surrounded by newcomers and working hard to cling to their precarious resources of 
times gone by, but comforted in any case by the sense that they had survived a shipwreck. In the 
house they still had guests for lunch and the old routine was never really set up again until the 
banana company left years later. Nevertheless, there were radical changes in the traditional sense of 
hospitality because at that time it was Fernanda who imposed her rules. With Ursula relegated to the 
shadows and with Amaranta absorbed In the work of her winding cloth, the former apprentice 
queen had the freedom to choose the guests and impose on them the rigid norms that her parents 
had taught her. Her severity made the house a redoubt of old customs in a town convulsed by the 
vulgarity with which the outsiders squandered their easy fortunes. For her, with no further questions 
asked, proper people were those who had nothing to do with the banana company. Even Jose 
Arcadio Segundo, her brother-in-law, was the victim of her discriminatory jealousy because during 
the excitement of the first days he gave up his stupendous fighting cocks again and took a job as 
foreman with the banana company. 

“He won’t ever come into this house again,” Fernanda said, “as long as he carries the rash of the 

Such was the narrowness imposed in the house that Aureliano Segundo felt more comfortable at 
Petra Cotes’s. First, with the pretext of taking the burden off his wife, he transferred his parties. 
Then, with the pretext that the animals were losing their fertility, he transferred his barns and 
stables. Finally, with the pretext that it was cooler in his concubine’s house, he transferred the small 
office in which he handled his business. When Fernanda realized that she was a widow whose 
husband had still not died, it was already too late for things to return to their former state. Aureliano 
Segundo barely ate at home and the only appearances he put in, such as to sleep with his wife, were 
not enough to convince anyone. One night, out of carelessness, morning found him in Petra Cotes’s 
bed. Fernanda, contrary to expectations, did not reproach him in the least or give the slightest sigh 
of resentment, but on the same day she sent two trunks with his clothing to the house of his 
concubine. She sent them in broad daylight and with instructions that they be carried through the 



middle of the street so that everyone could see them, thinking that her straying husband would be 
unable to bear the shame and would return to the fold with his head hung low. But that heroic 
gesture was just one more proof of how poorly Fernanda knew not only the character of her 
husband but the character of a community that had nothing to do with that of her parents, for 
everyone who saw the trunks pass by said that it was the natural culmination of a story whose 
intimacies were known to everyone, and Aureliano Segundo celebrated the freedom he had received 
with a party that lasted for three days. To the greater disadvantage of his wife, as she was entering 
into a sad maturity with her somber long dresses, her old-fashioned medals, and her out-of-place 
pride, the concubine seemed to be bursting with a second youth, clothed in gaudy dresses of natural 
silk and with her eyes tiger-striped with a glow of vindication. Aureliano Segundo gave himself over 
to her again with the fury of adolescence, as before, when Petra Cotes had not loved him for himself 
but because she had him mixed up with his twin brother and as she slept with both of them at the 
same time she thought that God had given her the good fortune of having a man who could make 
love like two. The restored passion was so pressing that on more than one occasion they would look 
each other in the eyes as they were getting ready to eat and without saying anything they would 
cover their plates and go into the bedroom dying of hunger and of love. Inspired by the things he 
had seen on his furtive visits to the French matrons, Aureliano Segundo bought Petra Cotes a bed 
with an archiepiscopal canopy, put velvet curtains on the windows, and covered the ceiling and the 
walls of the bedroom with large rock-crystal mirrors. At the same time he was more of a carouser 
and spendthrift than ever. On the train, which arrived every day at eleven o’clock, he would receive 
cases and more cases of champagne and brandy. On the way back from the station he would drag 
the improvised cumbiamba along in full view of all the people on the way, natives or outsiders, 
acquaintances or people yet to be known, without distinctions of any kind. Even the slippery Mr. 
Brown, who talked only in a strange tongue, let himself be seduced by the tempting signs that 
Aureliano Segundo made him and several times he got dead dmnk in Petra Cotes’s house and he 
even made the fierce German shepherd dogs that went everywhere with him dance to some Texas 
songs that he himself mumbled in one way or another to the accompaniment of the accordion. 

“Cease, cows,” Aureliano Segundo shouted at the height of the party. “Cease, because life is 

He never looked better, nor had he been loved more, nor had the breeding of his animals been 
wilder. There was a slaughtering of so many cows, pigs, and chickens for the endless parties that the 
ground in the courtyard turned black and muddy with so much blood. It was an eternal execution 
ground of bones and innards, a mud pit of leftovers, and they had to keep exploding dynamite 
bombs all the time so that the buzzards would not pluck out the guests’ eyes. Aureliano Segundo 
grew fat, purple-colored, turtle-shaped, because of an appetite comparable only to that of Jose 
Arcadio when he came back from traveling around the world. The prestige of his outlandish 
voracity, of his immense capacity as a spendthrift, of his unprecedented hospitality went beyond the 
borders of the swamp and attracted the best-qualified gluttons from all along the coast. Fabulous 
eaters arrived from everywhere to take part in the irrational tourneys of capacity and resistance that 
were organized in the house of Petra Cotes. Aureliano Segundo was the unconquered eater until the 
luckless Saturday when Camila Sagastume appeared, a totemic female known all through the land by 
the good name of “The Elephant.” The duel lasted until dawn on Tuesday. During the first twenty- 
four hours, having dispatched a dinner of veal, with cassava, yams, and fried bananas, and a case and 
a half of champagne in addition, Aureliano Segundo was sure of victory. He seemed more 
enthusiastic, more vital than his imperturbable adversary, who possessed a style that was obviously 
more professional, but at the same time less emotional for the large crowd that filled the house. 
While Aureliano Segundo ate with great bites, overcome by the anxiety of victory, The Elephant was 
slicing her meat with the art of a surgeon and eating it unhurriedly and even with a certain pleasure. 



She was gigantic and sturdy, but over her colossal form a tenderness of femininity prevailed and she 
had a face that was so beautiful, hands so fine and well cared for, and such an irresistible personal 
charm that when Aureliano Segundo saw her enter the house he commented in a low voice that he 
would have preferred to have the tourney in bed and not at the table. Later on, when he saw her 
consume a side of veal without breaking a single rule of good table manners, he commented 
seriously that that delicate, fascinating, and insatiable proboscidian was in a certain way the ideal 
woman. He was not mistaken. The reputation of a bone crusher that had preceded The Elephant 
had no basis. She was not a beef cruncher or a bearded lady from a Greek circus, as had been said, 
but the director of a school of voice. She had learned to eat when she was already the respectable 
mother of a family, looking for a way for her children to eat better and not by means of any artificial 
stimulation of their appetites but through the absolute tranquility of their spirits. Her theory, 
demonstrated in practice, was based on the principle that a person who had all matters of conscience 
in perfect shape should be able to eat until overcome by fatigue. And it was for moral reasons and 
sporting interest that she left her school and her home to compete with a man whose fame as a 
great, unprincipled eater had spread throughout the country. From the first moment she saw him 
she saw that Aureliano Segundo would lose not his stomach but Iris character. At the end of the first 
night, while The Elephant was boldly going on, Aureliano Segundo was wearing himself out with a 
great deal of talking and laughing. They slept four hours. On awakening each one had the juice of 
forty oranges, eight quarts of coffee, and thirty raw eggs. On the second morning, after many hours 
without sleep and having put away two pigs, a bunch of bananas, and four cases of champagne, The 
Elephant suspected that Aureliano Segundo had unknowingly discovered the same method as hers, 
but by the absurd route of total irresponsibility. He was, therefore, more dangerous than she had 
thought. Nevertheless, when Petra Cotes brought two roast turkeys to the table, Aureliano Segundo 
was a step away from being stuffed. 

“If you can’t, don’t eat any more,” The Elephant said to him. “Let’s call it a tie.” 

She said it from her heart, understanding that she could not eat another mouthful either, out of 
remorse for bringing on the death of her adversary. But Aureliano Segundo interpreted it as another 
challenge and he filled himself with turkey beyond his incredible capacity. He lost consciousness. He 
fell face down into the plate filled with bones, frothing at the mouth like a dog, and drowning in 
moans of agony. He felt, in the midst of the darkness, that they were throwing him from the top of a 
tower into a bottomless pit and in a last flash of consciousness he realized that at the end of that 
endless fall death was waiting for him. 

“Take me to Fernanda,” he managed to say. 

His friends left him at the house thinking that they had helped him fulfill his promise to his wife 
not to die in his concubine’s bed. Petra Cotes had shined his patent leather boots that he wanted to 
wear in his coffin, and she was already looking for someone to take them when they came to tell her 
that Aureliano Segundo was out of danger. He did recover, indeed, in less than a week, and two 
weeks later he was celebrating the fact of his survival with unprecedented festivities. He continued 
living at Petra Cotes’s but he would visit Fernanda every day and sometimes he would stay to eat 
with the family, as if fate had reversed the situation and had made him the husband of his concubine 
and the lover of his wife. 

It was a rest for Fernanda. During the boredom of her abandonment her only distractions were 
the clavichord lessons at siesta time and the letters from her children. In the detailed messages that 
she sent them every two weeks there was not a single line of truth. She hid her troubles from them. 
She hid from them the sadness of a house which, in spite of the light on the begonias, in spite of the 
heaviness at two in the afternoon, in spite of the frequent waves of festivals that came in from the 
street was more and more like the colonial mansion of her parents. Fernanda would wander alone 
among the three living ghosts and the dead ghost of Jose Arcadio Buendia, who at times would 



come to sit down with an inquisitive attention in the half-light of the parlor while she was playing 
the clavichord. Colonel Aureliano Buendia was a shadow. Since the last time that he had gone out 
into the street to propose a war without any future to Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, he left the 
workshop only to urinate under the chestnut tree. He did not receive any visits except that of the 
barber every three weeks, He fed on anything that Ursula brought him once a day, and even though 
he kept on making little gold fishes with the same passion as before, he stopped selling them when 
he found out that people were buying them not as pieces of jewelry but as historic relics. He made a 
bonfire in the courtyard of the dolls of Remedios which had decorated, their bedroom since their 
wedding. The watchful Ursula realized what her son was doing but she could not stop him. 

“You have a heart of stone,” she told him. 

“It’s not a question of a heart,” he said. “The room’s getting full of moths.” 

Amaranta was weaving her shroud. Fernanda did not understand why she would write occasional 
letters to Meme and even send her gifts and on the other hand did not even want to hear about Jose 
Arcadio. “They’ll die without knowing why,” Amaranta answered when she was asked through 
Ursula, and that answer planted an enigma in Fernanda’s heart that she was never able to clarify. 
Tall, broad-shouldered, proud, always dressed in abundant petticoats with the lace and in air of 
distinction that resisted the years and bad memories, Amaranta seemed to carry the cross of ashes of 
virginity on her forehead. In reality she carried it on her hand in the black bandage, which she did 
not take off even to sleep and which she washed and ironed herself. Her life was spent in weaving 
her shroud. It might have been said that she wove during the day and unwove during the night, and 
not with any hope of defeating solitude in that way, but, quite the contrary, in order to nurture it. 

The greatest worry that Fernanda had during her years of abandonment was that Meme would 
come to spend her first vacation and not find Aureliano Segundo at home. His congestion had put 
an end to that fear. When Meme returned, her parents had made an agreement that not only would 
the girl think that Aureliano Segundo was still a domesticated husband but also that she would not 
notice the sadness of the house. Every year for two months Aureliano Segundo played his role of an 
exemplary husband and he organized parties with ice cream and cookies which the gay and lively 
schoolgirl enhanced with the clavichord. It was obvious from then on that she had inherited very 
little of her mother’s character. She seemed more of a second version of Amaranta when the latter 
had not known bitterness and was arousing the house with her dance steps at the age of twelve or 
fourteen before her secret passion for Pietro Crespi was to twist the direction of her heart in the 
end. But unlike Amaranta, unlike all of them, Meme still did not reveal the solitary fate of the family 
and she seemed entirely in conformity with the world, even when she would shut herself up in the 
parlor at two in the afternoon to practice the clavichord with an inflexible discipline. It was obvious 
that she liked the house, that she spent the whole year dreaming about the excitement of the young 
people her arrival brought around, and that she was not far removed from the festive vocation and 
hospitable excesses of her father. The first sign of that calamitous inheritance was revealed on her 
third vacation, when Meme appeared at the house with four nuns and sixty-eight classmates whom 
she had invited to spend a week with her family on her own Initiative and without any previous 

“How awful!” Fernanda lamented. “This child is as much of a barbarian as her father!” 

It was necessary to borrow beds and hammocks from the neighbors, to set up nine shifts at the 
table, to fix hours for bathing, and to borrow forty stools so that the girls in blue uniforms with 
masculine buttons would not spend the whole day running from one place to another. The visit was 
a failure because the noisy schoolgirls would scarcely finish breakfast before they had to start taking 
turns for lunch and then for dinner, and for the whole week they were able to take only one walk 
through the plantations. At nightfall the nuns were exhausted, unable to move, give another order, 
and still the troop of tireless adolescents was in the courtyard singing school songs out of tune. One 



day they were on the point of trampling Ursula, who made an effort to be useful precisely where she 
was most in the way. On another day the nuns got all excited because Colonel Aureliano Buendia 
had urinated under the chestnut tree without being concerned that the schoolgirls were in the 
courtyard. Amaranta was on the point of causing panic because one of the nuns went into the 
kitchen as she was salting the soup and the only thing that occurred to her to say was to ask what 
those handfuls of white powder were. 

“Arsenic,” Amaranta answered. 

The night of their arrival the students carried on in such a way, trying to go to the bathroom 
before they went to bed, that at one o’clock in the morning the last ones were still going in. 
Fernanda then bought seventy-two chamberpots but she only managed to change the nocturnal 
problem into a morning one, because from dawn on there was a long line of girls, each with her pot 
in her hand, waiting for her turn to wash it. Although some of them suffered fevers and several of 
them were infected by mosquito bites, most of them showed an unbreakable resistance as they faced 
the most troublesome difficulties, and even at the time of the greatest heat they would scamper 
through the garden. When they finally left, the flowers were destroyed, the furniture broken, and the 
walls covered with drawings and writing, but Fernanda pardoned them for all of the damage because 
of her relief at their leaving. She returned the borrowed beds and stools and kept the seventy-two 
chamberpots in Melquiades’ room. The locked room, about which the spiritual life of the house 
revolved in former times, was known from that time on as the “chamberpot room.” For Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia it was the most appropriate name, because while the rest of the family was still 
amazed by the fact that Melquiades’ room was immune to dust and destruction, he saw it turned 
into a dunghill. In any case, it did not seem to bother him who was correct, and if he found out 
about the fate of the room it was because Fernanda kept passing by and disturbing his work for a 
whole afternoon as she put away the chamberpots. 

During those days Jose Arcadio Segundo reappeared in the house. He went along the porch 
without greeting anyone and he shut himself up in the workshop to talk to the colonel. In spite of 
the fact that she could not see him, Ursula analyzed the clicking of his foreman’s boots and was 
surprised at the unbridgeable distance that separated him from the family, even from the twin 
brother with whom he had played ingenious games of confusion in childhood and with whom he no 
longer had any traits in common. He was linear, solemn, and had a pensive air and the sadness of a 
Saracen and a mournful glow on his face that was the color of autumn. He was the one who most 
resembled his mother, Santa Sofia de la Piedad. Ursula reproached herself for the habit of forgetting 
about him when she spoke about the family, but when she sensed him in the house again and 
noticed that the colonel let him into the workshop during working hours, she reexamined her old 
memories and confirmed the belief that at some moment in childhood he had changed places with 
his twin brother, because it was he and not the other one who should have been called Aureliano. 
No one knew the details of his life. At one time it was discovered that he had no fixed abode, that 
he raised fighting cocks at Pilar Ternera’s house and that sometimes he would stay there to sleep but 
that he almost always spent the night in the rooms of the French matrons. He drifted about, with no 
ties of affection, with no ambitions, like a wandering star in Ursula’s planetary system. 

In reality, Jose Arcadio Segundo was not a member of the family, nor would he ever be of any 
other since that distant dawn when Colonel Gerineldo Marquez took him to the barracks, not so 
that he could see an execution, but so that for the rest of his life he would never forget the sad and 
somewhat mocking smile of the man being shot. That was not only his oldest memory, but the only 
one he had of his childhood. The other one, that of an old man with an old-fashioned vest and a hat 
with a brim like a crow’s wings who told him marvelous things framed in a dazzling window, he was 
unable to place in any period. It was an uncertain memory, entirely devoid of lessons or nostalgia, 
the opposite of the memory of the executed man, which had really set the direction of Iris life and 



would return to his memory clearer and dearer as he grew older, as if the passage of time were 
bringing him closer to it. Ursula tried to use Jose Arcadio Segundo to get Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia. to give up his imprisonment. “Get him to go to the movies,” she said to him. “Even if he 
doesn’t like the picture, as least he’ll breathe a little fresh air.” But it did not take her long to realize 
that he was as insensible to her begging as the colonel would have been, and that they were armored 
by the same impermeability of affection. Although she never knew, nor did anyone know, what they 
spoke about in their prolonged sessions shut up in the workshop, she understood that they were 
probably the only members of the family who seemed drawn together by some affinity. 

The truth is that not even Jose Arcadio Segundo would have been able to draw the colonel out of 
Inis confinement. The invasion of schoolgirls had lowered the limits of his patience. With the pretext 
that his wedding bedroom was at the mercy of the moths in spite of the destruction of Remedios’ 
appetizing dolls, he hung a hammock in the workshop and then he would leave it only to go into the 
courtyard to take care of his necessities. Ursula was unable to string together even a trivial 
conversation with him. She knew that he did not look at the dishes of food but would put them at 
one end of his workbench while he finished a little fish and it did not matter to him if the soup 
curdled or if the meat got cold. He grew harder and harder ever since Colonel Gerineldo Marquez 
refused to back him up in a senile war. He locked himself up inside himself and the family finally 
thought of him is if he were dead. No other human reaction was seen in him until one October 
eleventh, when he went to the. street door to watch a circus parade. For Colonel Aureliano Buendia 
it had been a day just like all those of his last years. At five o’clock in the morning the noise of the 
toads and crickets outside the wall woke him up. The drizzle had persisted since Saturday and there 
was no necessity for him to hear their tiny whispering among the leaves of the garden because he 
would have felt the cold in his bones in any case. He was, as always, wrapped in his woolen blanket 
and wearing his crude cotton long drawers, which he still wore for comfort, even though because of 
their musty, old-fashioned style he called them his “Goth drawers.” He put on his tight pants but 
did not button them up, nor did he put the gold button into his shirt collar as he always did, because 
he planned to take a bath. Then he put the blanket over his head like a cowl, brushed his dripping 
mustache with his fingers, and went to urinate in the courtyard. There was still so much time left for 
the sun to come out that Jose Arcadio Buendia was still dozing under the shelter of palm fronds that 
had been rotted by the rain. He did not see him, as he had never seen him, nor did he hear the 
incomprehensible phrase that the ghost of his father addressed to him as he awakened, startled by 
the stream of hot urine that splattered his shoes. He put the bath off for later, not because of the 
cold and the dampness, but because of the oppressive October mist. On his way back to the 
workshop he noticed the odor of the wick that Santa Sofia de la Piedad was using to light the stoves, 
and he waited in the kitchen for the coffee to boil so that he could take along his mug without sugar. 
Santa Sofia de la Piedad asked him, as on every morning, what day of the week it was, and he 
answered that it was Tuesday, October eleventh. Watching the glow of the fire as it gilded the 
persistent woman who neither then nor in any instant of her life seemed to exist completely, he 
suddenly remembered that on one October eleventh in the middle of the war he had awakened with 
the brutal certainty that the woman with whom he had slept was dead. She really was and he could 
not forget the date because she had asked him an hour before what day it was. In spite of the 
memory he did not have an awareness this time either of to what degree his omens had abandoned 
him and while the coffee was boiling he kept on thinking out of pure curiosity but without the 
slightest risk of nostalgia about the woman whose name he had never known and whose face he had 
not seen because she had stumbled to his hammock in the dark. Nevertheless, in the emptiness of so 
many women who came into his life in the same way, he did not remember that she was the one 
who in the delirium of that first meeting was on the point of foundering in her own tears and 
scarcely an hour before her death had sworn to love him until she died. He did not think about her 



again or about any of the others after he went into the workshop with the steaming cup, and he 
lighted the lamp in order to count the little gold fishes, which he kept in a tin pail. There were 
seventeen of them. Since he had decided not to sell any, he kept on making two fishes a day and 
when he finished twenty-five he would melt them down and start all over again. He worked all 
morning, absorbed, without thinking about anything, without realizing that at ten o’clock the rain 
had grown stronger and someone ran past the workshop shouting to close the doors before the 
house was flooded, and without thinking even about himself until Ursula came in with his lunch and 
turned out the light. 

“What a rain!” Ursula said. 

“October,” he said. 

When he said it he did not raise his eyes from the first little fish of the day because he was putting 
in the rubies for the eyes. Only when he finished it and put it with the others in the pail did he begin 
to drink the soup. Then, very slowly, he ate the piece of meat roasted with onions, the white rice, 
and the slices of fried bananas all on the same plate together. His appetite did not change under 
either the best or the harshest of circumstances. After lunch he felt the drowsiness of inactivity. 
Because of a kind of scientific superstition he never worked, or read, or bathed, or made love until 
two hours of digestion had gone by, and it was such a deep-rooted belief that several times he held 
up military operations so as not to submit the troops to the risks of indigestion. So he lay down in 
the hammock, removing the wax from his ears with a penknife, and in a few minutes he was asleep. 
He dreamed that he was going into an empty house with white walls and that he was upset by the 
burden of being the first human being to enter it. In the dream he remembered that he had dreamed 
the same thing the night before and on many nights over the past years and he knew that the image 
would be erased from his memory when he awakened because that recurrent dream had the quality 
of not being remembered except within the dream itself. A moment later, indeed, when the barber 
knocked at the workshop door, Colonel Aureliano Buendfa awoke with the impression that he had 
fallen asleep involuntarily for a few seconds and that he had not had time to dream anything. 

“Not today.” he told the barber. “We’ll make it on Friday.” 

He had a three-day beard speckled with white hairs, but he did not think it necessary to shave 
because on Friday he was going to have his hair cut and it could all be done at the same time. The 
sticky sweat of the unwanted siesta aroused the scars of the sores in his armpits. The sky had cleared 
but the sun had not come out. Colonel Aureliano Buendfa released a sonorous belch which brought 
back the acidity of the soup to his palate and which was like a command from his organism to throw 
his blanket over his shoulders and go to the toilet. He stayed there longer than was necessary, 
crouched over the dense fermentation that was coming out of the wooden box until habit told him 
that it was time to start work again. During the time he lingered he remembered again that it was 
Tuesday, and that Jose Arcadio Segundo had not come to the workshop because it was payday on 
the banana company farms. That recollection, as all of those of the past few years, led him to think 
about the war without his realizing it. He remembered that Colonel Gerineldo Marquez had once 
promised to get him a horse with a white star on its face and that he had never spoken about it 
again. Then he went on toward scattered episodes but he brought them back without any judgment 
because since he could not think about anything else, he had learned to think coldly so that 
inescapable memories would not touch any feeling. On his way back to the workshop, seeing that 
the air was beginning to dry out, he decided that it was a good time to take a bath, but Amaranta had 
got there ahead of him. So he started on the second little fish of the day. He was putting a hook on 
the tail when the sun came out with such strength that the light creaked like a fishing boat. The air, 
which had been washed by the three-day drizzle, was filled with flying ants. Then he came to the 
realization that he felt like urinating and he had been putting it off until he had finished fixing the 
little fish. He went out into the courtyard at ten minutes after four, when he heard the distant brass 



instruments, the beating of the bass drum and the shouting of the children, and for the first time 
since his youth he knowingly fell into a trap of nostalgia and relived that prodigious afternoon Of 
the gypsies when his father took him to see ice. Santa Sofia de la Piedad dropped what she was 
doing in the kitchen and ran to the door. 

“It’s the circus,” she shouted. 

Instead of going to the chestnut tree, Colonel Aureliano Buendia also went to the street door and 
mingled with the bystanders who, were watching the parade. He saw a woman dressed in gold sitting 
on the head of an elephant. He saw a sad dromedary. He saw a bear dressed like a Dutch girl 
keeping time to the music with a soup spoon and a pan. He saw the clowns doing cartwheels at the 
end of the parade and once more he saw the face of his miserable solitude when everything had 
passed by and there was nothing but the bright expanse of the street and the air full of flying ants 
with a few onlookers peering into the precipice of uncertainty. Then he went to the chestnut tree, 
thinking about the circus, and while he urinated he tried to keep on thinking about the circus, but he 
could no longer find the memory. He pulled his head in between his shoulders like a baby chick and 
remained motionless with his forehead against the trunk of the chestnut tree. The family did not 
find him until the following day at eleven o’clock in the morning when Santa Sofia de la Piedad went 
to throw out the garbage in back and her attention was attracted by the descending vultures. 



Chapter 14 

MEME’S LAST VACATIONS coincided with the period of mourning for Colonel Aureliano Buendia. 
The shuttered house was no place for parties. They spoke in whispers, ate in silence, recited the 
rosary three times a day, and even clavichord practice during the heat of siesta time had a funereal 
echo. In spite of her secret hostility toward the colonel, it was Fernanda who imposed the rigor of 
that mourning, impressed by the solemnity with which the government exalted the memory of its 
dead enemy. Aureliano Segundo, as was his custom came back to sleep in the house during his 
daughter’s vacation and Fernanda must have done some, thing to regain her privileges as his 
legitimate wife because the following year Meme found a newborn little sister who against the 
wishes of her mother had been baptized with the name Amaranta Ursula. 

Meme had finished her course of study. The diploma that certified her as a concert clavichordist 
was ratified by the virtuosity with which she executed popular melodies of the seventeenth century 
at the gathering organized to celebrate the completion of her studies and with which the period of 
mourning came to in end. More than her art, the guests admired her duality. Her frivolous and even 
slightly infantile character did not seem up to any serious activity, but when she sat down at the 
clavichord she became a different girl, one whose unforeseen maturity gave her the air of an adult. 
That was how she had always been. She really did am have any definite vocation, but she had earned 
the highest grades by means of inflexible discipline simply in order not to annoy her mother. They 
could have imposed on her an apprenticeship in any other field and the results would have been the 
same. Since she had been very small she had been troubled by Fernanda’s strictness, her custom of 
deciding in favor of extremes; and she would have been capable of a much more difficult sacrifice 
than the clavichord lessons merely not to run up against her intransigence. During the graduation 
ceremonies she had the impression that the parchment with Gothic letters and illuminated capitals 
was freeing her from a compromise that she had accepted not so much out of obedience as out of 
convenience, and she thought that from then on not even the insistent Fernanda would worry any 
more about an instmment that even the nuns looked upon as a museum fossil. During the first years 
she thought that her calculations were mistaken because after she had put half the town to sleep, not 
only in the parlor but also at all charitable functions, school ceremonies, and patriotic celebrations 
that took place in Macondo, her mother still invited to the house every newcomer whom she 
thought capable of appreciating her daughter’s virtues. Only after the death of Amaranta, when the 
family shut itself up again in a period of mourning, was Meme able to lock the clavichord and forget 
the key in some dresser drawer without Fernanda’s being annoyed on finding out when and through 
whose fault it had been lost. Meme bore up under the exhibitions with the same stoicism that she 
had dedicated to her apprenticeship. It was the price of her freedom. Fernanda was so pleased with 
her docility and so proud of the admiration that her art inspired that she was never against the house 
being fall of girl friends, her spending the afternoon in the groves, and going to the movies with 
Aureliano Segundo or some muted lady as long as the film was approved by Father Antonio Isabel 
from the pulpit. During those moments of relaxation Meme’s real tastes were revealed. Her 
happiness lay at the other extreme from discipline, in noisy parties, in gossip about lovers, in 
prolonged sessions with her girl friends, where they learned to smoke and talked about male 
business, and where they once got their hands on some cane liquor and ended up naked, measuring 
and comparing the parts of their bodies. Meme would never forget that night when she arrived 
home chewing licorice lozenges, and without noticing their consternation, sat down at the table 
where Fernanda and Amaranta were eating dinner without saying a word to each other. She had 
spent two tremendous hours in the bedroom of a girl friend, weeping with laughter and fear, and 



beyond an crises she had found the rare feeling of. bravery that she needed in order to run away 
from school and tell her mother in one way or another that she could use the clavichord as an 
enema. Sitting at the head of the table, drinking a chicken broth that landed in her stomach like an 
elixir of resurrection, Meme then saw Fernanda and Amaranta wrapped in an accusatory halo of 
reality. She had to make a great effort not to throw at them their prissiness, their poverty of spirit 
their delusions of grandeur. From the time of her second vacation she had known that her father 
was living at home only in order to keep up appearances, and knowing Fernanda as she did and 
having arranged later to meet Petra Cotes, she thought that her father was right. She also would have 
preferred being the daughter of the concubine. In the haziness of the alcohol Meme thought with 
pleasure about the scandal that would have taken place if she were to express her thoughts at that 
moment, and the intimate satisfaction of her roguishness was so intense that Fernanda noticed it. 

“What’s the matter?” she asked. 

“Nothing,” Meme answered. “I was only now discovering how much I loved you both.” 

Amaranta was startled by the obvious burden of hate that the declaration carried. But Fernanda 
felt so moved that she thought she would go mad when Meme awoke at midnight with her head 
splitting with pain and drowning in vomited gall. She gave her a vial of castor oil, put compresses on 
her stomach and ice cubes on her head, and she made her stay in bed for five days and follow the 
diet ordered by the new and outlandish French doctor, who after examining her for more than two 
hours reached the foggy conclusion that she had an ailment peculiar to women. Having lost her 
courage, in a miserable state of demoralization, Meme had no other recourse but to bear up under it. 
Ursula, completely blind by then but still active and lucid, was the only one who guessed the exact 
diagnosis. “As far as I can see,” she thought, “that’s the same thing that happens to drunken 
people.” But she not only rejected the idea, she reproached herself for the frivolity of her thought. 
Aureliano Segundo felt a twinge of conscience when he saw Meme’s state of prostration and he 
promised himself to take better care of her in the future. That was how the relationship of jolly 
comradeship was born between father and daughter, which freed him for a time from the bitter 
solitude of his revels and freed her from Fernanda’s watchful eye without necessity of provoking the 
domestic crisis that seemed inevitable by then. At that time Aureliano Segundo postponed any 
appointments in order to be with Meme, to take her to the movies or the circus, and he spent the 
greater part of his idle time with her. In recent times his annoyance with the absurd obesity that 
prevented him from tying his shoes and his abusive satisfaction with all manner of appetites had 
began to sour his character. The discovery of his daughter restored his former joviality and the 
pleasure of being with her was slowly leading him away from dissipation. Meme was entering a 
fruitful age. She was not beautiful, as Amaranta had never been, but on the other hand she was 
pleasant, uncomplicated, and she had the virtue of making a good impression on people from the 
first moment. She had a modem spirit that wounded the antiquated sobriety and poorly disguised 
miserly heart of Fernanda, and that, on the other hand, Aureliano Segundo took pleasure in 
developing. It was he who resolved to take her out of the bedroom she had occupied since 
childhood, where the fearful eyes of the saints still fed her adolescent terrors, and he furnished for 
her a room with a royal bed, a large dressing table, and velvet curtains, not realizing that he was 
producing a second version of Petra Cotes’s room. He was so lavish with Meme that he did not 
even know how much money he gave her because she herself would take it out of his pockets, and 
he kept abreast of every kind of new beauty aid that arrived in the commissary of the banana 
company. Meme’s room became filled with pumice-stone cushions to polish her nails with, hair 
curlers, toothbrushes, drops to make her eyes languid, and so many and such new cosmetics and 
artifacts of beauty that every time Fernanda went into the room she was scandalized by the idea that 
her daughter’s dressing table must have been the same as those of the French matrons. Nevertheless 
Fernanda divided her time in those days between little Amaranta Ursula, who was mischievous and 



sickly, and a touching correspondence with the invisible physicians. So that when she noticed the 
complicity between father and daughter the only promise she extracted from Aureliano Segundo was 
that he would never take Meme to Petra Cotes’s house. It was a meaningless demand because the 
concubine was so annoyed with the comradeship between her lover and his daughter that she did 
not want anything to do with her. Petra was tormented by an unknown fear, as if instinct were 
telling her that Meme, by just wanting it, could succeed in what Fernanda had been unable to do: 
deprive her of a love that by then she considered assured until death. For the first time Aureliano 
Segundo had to tolerate the harsh expressions and the violent tirades of his concubine, and he was 
even afraid that his wandering trunks would make the return journey to his wife’s house. That did 
not happen. No one knew a man better than Petra Cotes knew her lover and she knew that the 
trunks would remain where they had been sent because if Aureliano Segundo detested anything it 
was complicating his life with modifications and changes. So the tmnks stayed where they were and 
Petra Cotes set about reconquering the husband by sharpening the only weapons that his daughter 
could not use on him. It too was an unnecessary effort because Meme had no desire to intervene in 
her father’s affairs and if she had, it would certainly have been in favor of the concubine. She had no 
time to bother anybody. She herself swept her room and made her bed, as the nuns had taught her. 
In the morning she took care of her clothes, sewing on the porch or using Amaranta’s old pedal 
machine. While the others were taking their siestas she would practice the clavichord for two hours, 
knowing that the daily sacrifice would keep Fernanda calm. For the same reason she continued 
giving concerts at church fairs and school parties, even though the requests were less and less 
frequent. At nightfall she would fix herself up, put on one of her simple dresses and her stiff high 
shoes, and if she had nothing to do with her father she would go to the homes of her girl friends, 
where she would stay until dinnertime. It was rare that Aureliano Segundo would not call for her 
then to take her to the movies. 

Among Meme’s friends there were three young American girls who broke through the electrified 
chicken fence barrier and made friends with girls from Macondo. One of them was Patricia Brown. 
Grateful for the hospitality of Aureliano Segundo, Mr. Brown opened the doors of his house to 
Meme and invited her to the Saturday dances, which were the only ones where gringos and natives 
mingled. When Fernanda found out about it she forgot about Amaranta Ursula and the invisible 
doctors for a moment and became very melodramatic. “Just think,” she said to Meme, “what the 
colonel must be thinking in his grave.” She sought, of course, the backing of Ursula. But the blind 
old woman, contrary to what everyone expected, saw nothing reproachable in Meme’s going to the 
dances and making friends with American girls her own age as long as she kept her strict habits and 
was not converted to the Protestant religion. Meme sensed the thought of her great-great- 
grandmother very well and the day after the dances she would get up earlier than usual to go to 
mass. Fernanda’s opposition lasted until the day when Meme broke down her resistance with the 
news that the Americans wanted to hear her play the clavichord. The instmment was taken out of 
the house again and carried to Mr. Brown’s, where the young concert artist really did receive very 
sincere applause and the most enthusiastic congratulations. From then on she was invited not only 
to the dances but also to the Sunday swim parties in the pool and to lunch once a week. Meme 
learned to swim like a professional, to play tennis, and to eat Virginia ham with slices of pineapple. 
Among dances, swimming, and tennis she soon found herself getting involved in the English 
language. Aureliano Segundo was so enthusiastic over the progress of his daughter that from a 
traveling salesman he bought a six-volume English encyclopedia with many color prints which 
Meme read in her spare time. The reading occupied the attention that she had formerly given to 
gossip about sweethearts and the experimental retreats that she would go through with her girl 
friends, not because it was imposed as discipline but because she had lost all interest by then in 
talking about mysteries that were in the public domain. She looked back on the drunken episode as 



an infantile adventure and it seemed so funny to her that she told Aureliano Segundo about it and he 
thought it was more amusing than she did. “If your mother only knew,” he told her, doubling up 
with laughter, as he always said when he told her something in confidence. He had made her 
promise that she would let him know about her first love affair with the same confidence, and 
Meme told him that she liked a redheaded American boy who had come to spend his vacation with 
his parents. “What do you know,” Aureliano Segundo said, laughing. “If your mother only knew.” 
But Meme also told him that the boy had gone back to his country and had disappeared from sight. 
The maturity of her judgment ensured peace in the family. Aureliano Segundo then devoted more 
time to Petra Cotes, and although his body and soul no longer permitted him the debauches of days 
gone by, he lost no chance to arrange them and to dig out the accordion, which by then had some 
keys held in place by shoelaces. At home, Amaranta was weaving her interminable shroud and 
Ursula dragged about in her decrepitude through the depths of the shadows where the only thing 
that was still visible was the ghost of Jose Arcadio Buendfa under the chestnut tree. Fernanda 
consolidated her authority. Her monthly letters to her son Jose Arcadio at that time did not carry a 
string of lies and she hid from him only her correspondence with the invisible doctors, who had 
diagnosed a benign tumor in her large intestine and were preparing her for a telepathic operation. 

It might have been aid that peace and happiness reigned for a long time in the tired mansion of 
the Buendfas if it had not been for the sudden death of Amaranta, which caused a new uproar. It 
was an unexpected event. Although she was old and isolated from everyone, she still looked firm 
and upright and with the health of a rock that she had always had. No one knew her thoughts since 
the afternoon on which she had given Colonel Gerineldo Marquez his final rejection and shut 
herself up to weep. She was not seen to cry during the ascension to heaven of Remedios the Beauty 
or over the extermination of the Aurelianos or the death of Colonel Aureliano Buendfa, who was the 
person she loved most in this world, although she showed it only when they found his body under 
the chestnut tree. She helped pick up the body. She dressed him in his soldier’s uniform, shaved 
him, combed his hair, and waxed his mustache better than he had ever done in his days of glory. No 
one thought that there was any love in that act because they were accustomed to the familiarity of 
Amaranta with the rites of death. Fernanda was scandalized that she did not understand the 
relationship of Catholicism with life but only its relationship with death, as if it were not a religion 
but a compendium of funeral conventions. Amaranta was too wrapped up in the eggplant patch of 
her memories to understand those subtle apologetics. She had reached old age with all of her 
nostalgias intact. When she listened to the waltzes of Pietro Crespi she felt the same desire to weep 
that she had had in adolescence, as if time and harsh lessons had meant nothing. The rolls of music 
that she herself had thrown into the trash with the pretext that they had rotted from dampness kept 
spinning and playing in her memory. She had tried to sink them into the swampy passion that she 
allowed herself with her nephew Aureliano Jose and she tried to take refuge in the calm and virile 
protection of Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, but she had not been able to overcome them, not even 
with the most desperate act of her old age when she would bathe the small Jose Arcadio three years 
before he was sent to the seminary and caress him not as a grandmother would have done with a 
grandchild, but as a woman would have done with a man, as it was said that the French matrons did 
and as she had wanted to do with Pietro Crespi at the age of twelve, fourteen, when she saw him in 
his dancing tights and with the magic wand with which he kept time to the metronome. At times It 
pained her to have let that outpouring of misery follow its course, and at times it made her so angry 
that she would prick her fingers with the needles, but what pained her most and enraged her most 
and made her most bitter was the fragrant and wormy guava grove of love that was dragging her 
toward death. Just as Colonel Aureliano Buendia thought about his war, unable to avoid it, so 
Amaranta thought about Rebeca. But while her brother had managed to sterilize his memories, she 
had only managed to make hers more scalding. The only thing that she asked of God for many years 



was that he would not visit on her the punishment of dying before Rebeca. Every time she passed by 
her house and noted the progress of destruction she took comfort in the idea that God was listening 
to her. One afternoon, when she was sewing on the porch, she was assailed by the certainty that she 
would be sitting in that place, in the same position, and under the same light when they brought her 
the news of Rebeca’s death. She sat down to wait for it, as one waits for a letter, and the fact was 
that at one time she would pull off buttons to sew them on again so that inactivity would not make 
the wait longer and more anxious. No one in the house realized that at that time Amaranta was 
sewing a fine shroud for Rebeca. Later on, when Aureliano Triste told how he had seen her changed 
into an apparition with leathery skin and a few golden threads on her skull, Amaranta was not 
surprised because the specter described was exactly what she had been imagining for some time. She 
had decided to restore Rebeca’s corpse, to disguise with paraffin the damage to her face and make a 
wig for her from the hair of the saints. She would manufacture a beautiful corpse, with the linen 
shroud and a plush-lined coffin with purple trim, and she would put it at the disposition of the 
worms with splendid funeral ceremonies. She worked out the plan with such hatred that it made her 
tremble to think about the scheme, which she would have carried out in exactly the same way if it 
had been done out of love, but she would not allow herself to become upset by the confusion and 
went on perfecting the details so minutely that she came to be more than a specialist and was a 
virtuoso in the rites of death. The only thing that she did not keep In mind in her fearsome plan was 
that in spite of her pleas to God she might die before Rebeca. That was, in fact, what happened. At 
the final moment, however, Amaranta did not feel frustrated, but on the contrary, free of all 
bitterness because death had awarded her the privilege of announcing itself several years ahead of 
time. She saw it on one burning afternoon sewing with her on the porch a short time after Meme 
had left for school. She saw it because it was a woman dressed in blue with long hair, with a sort of 
antiquated look, and with a certain resemblance to Pilar Ternera during the time when she had 
helped with the chores in the kitchen. Fernanda was present several times and did not see her, in 
spite of the fact that she was so real, so human, and on one occasion asked of Amaranta the favor of 
threading a needle. Death did not tell her when she was going to die or whether her hour was 
assigned before that of Rebeca, but ordered her to begin sewing her own shroud on the next sixth of 
April. She was authorized to make it as complicated and as fine as she wanted, but just as honestly 
executed as Rebeca’s, and she was told that she would die without pain, fear, or bitterness at dusk on 
the day that she finished it. Trying to waste the most time possible, Amaranta ordered some rough 
flax and spun the thread herself. She did it so carefully that the work alone took four years. Then she 
started the sewing. As she got closer to the unavoidable end she began to understand that only a 
miracle would allow her to prolong the work past Rebeca’s death, but the very concentration gave 
her the calmness that she needed to accept the idea of frustration. It was then that she understood 
the vicious circle of Colonel Aureliano Buendfa’s little gold fishes. The world was reduced to the 
surface of her skin and her inner self was safe from all bitterness. It pained her not to have had that 
revelation many years before when it had still been possible to purify memories and reconstmct the 
universe under a new light and evoke without trembling Pietro Crespi’s smell of lavender at dusk 
and rescue Rebeca from her slough of misery, not out of hatred or out of love but because of the 
measureless understanding of solitude. The hatred that she noticed one night in Memes words did 
not upset her because it was directed at her, but she felt the repetition of another adolescence that 
seemed as clean as hers must have seemed and that, however, was already tainted with rancor. But 
by then her acceptance of her fate was so deep that she was not even upset by the certainty that all 
possibilities of rectification were closed to her. Her only objective was to finish the shroud. Instead 
of slowing it down with useless detail as she had done in the beginning, she speeded up the work. 
One week before she calculated that she would take the last stitch on the night of February 4, and 
without revealing the motives, she suggested to Meme that she move up a clavichord concert that 



she had arranged for the day after, but the girl paid no attention to her. Amaranta then looked for a 
way to delay for forty-eight hours, and she even thought that death was giving her her way because 
on the night of February fourth a storm caused a breakdown at the power plant. But on the 
following day, at eight in the morning, she took the last stitch in the most beautiful piece of work 
that any woman had ever finished, and she announced without the least bit of dramatics that she 
was going to die at dusk. She not only told the family but the whole town, because Amaranta had 
conceived of the idea that she could make up for a life of meanness with one last favor to the world, 
and she thought that no one was in a better position to take letters to the dead. 

The news that Amaranta Buendia was sailing at dusk carrying the mail of death spread 
throughout Macondo before noon, and at three in the afternoon there was a whole carton full of 
letters in the parlor. Those who did not want to write gave Amaranta verbal messages, which she 
wrote down in a notebook with the name and date of death of the recipient. “Don’t worry,” she told 
the senders. “The first thing I’ll do when I get there is to ask for him and give him your message.” It 
was farcical. Amaranta did not show any upset or the slightest sign of grief, and she even looked a 
bit rejuvenated by a duty accomplished. She was as straight and as thin as ever. If it had not been for 
her hardened cheekbones and a few missing teeth, she would have looked much younger than she 
really was. She herself arranged for them to put the letters in a box sealed with pitch and told them 
to place it in her grave in a way best to protect it from the dampness. In the morning she had a 
carpenter called who took her measurements for the coffin as she stood in the parlor, as if it were 
for a new dress. She showed such vigor in her last hours that Fernanda thought she was making fun 
of everyone. Ursula, with the experience that Buendias died without any illness, did not doubt at all 
that Amaranta had received an omen of death, but in any case she was tormented by the fear that 
with the business of the letters and the anxiety of the senders for them to arrive quickly they would 
bury her alive in their confusion. So she set about clearing out the house, arguing with the intmders 
as she shouted at them, and by four in the afternoon she was successful. At that time Amaranta had 
finished dividing her things among the poor and had left on the severe coffin of unfinished boards 
only the change of clothing and the simple cloth slippers that she would wear in death. She did not 
neglect that precaution because she remembered that when Colonel Aureliano Buendia died they 
had to buy a pair of new shoes for him because all he had left were the bedroom slippers that he 
wore in the workshop. A little before five Aureliano Segundo came to fetch Meme for the concert 
and was surprised that the house was prepared for the funeral, if anyone seemed alive at the moment 
it was the serene Amaranta, who had even had enough time to cut her corns. Aureliano Segundo 
and Meme took leave of her with mocking farewells and promised her that on the following 
Saturday they would have a big resurrection party. Drawn by the public talk that Amaranta Buendia 
was receiving letters for the dead. Father Antonio Isabel arrived at five o’clock for the last rites and 
he had to wait for more than fifteen minutes for the recipient to come out of her bath. When he saw 
her appear in a madapollam nightshirt and with her hair loose over her shoulders, the decrepit parish 
priest thought that it was a trick and sent the altar boy away. He thought however, that he would 
take advantage of the occasion to have Amaranta confess after twenty years of reticence. Amaranta 
answered simply that she did not need spiritual help of any kind because her conscience was clean. 
Fernanda was scandalized. Without caring that people could hear her she asked herself aloud what 
horrible sin Amaranta had committed to make her prefer an impious death to the shame of 
confession. Thereupon Amaranta lay down and made Ursula give public testimony as to her 

“Let no one have any illusions,” she shouted so that Fernanda would hear her. “Amaranta 
Buendia is leaving this world just as she came into it. 

She did not get up again. Lying on cushions, as if she really were ill, she braided her long hair and 
rolled it about her ears as death had told her it should be on her bier. Then she asked Ursula for a 



mirror and for the first time in more than forty years she saw her face, devastated by age and 
martyrdom, and she was surprised at how much she resembled the mental image that she had of 
herself. Ursula understood by the silence in the bedroom that it had begun to grow dark. 

“Say good-bye to Fernanda,” she begged her. One minute of reconciliation is worth more than a 
whole life of friendship.” 

“It’s of no use now,” Amaranta replied. 

Meme could not help thinking about her when they turned on the lights on the improvised stage 
and she began the second part of the program. In the middle of the piece someone whispered the 
news in her ear and the session stopped. When he arrived home, Aureliano Segundo had to push his 
way through the crowd to see the corpse of the aged virgin, ugly and discolored, with the black 
bandage on her hand and wrapped in the magnificent shroud. She was laid out in the parlor beside 
the box of letters. 

Ursula did not get up again after the nine nights of mourning for Amaranta, Santa Sofia de la 
Piedad took care of her. She took her meals to her bedroom and annatto water for her to wash in 
and she kept her up to date on everything that happened in Macondo. Aureliano Segundo visited her 
frequently and he brought her clothing which she would place beside the bed along with the things 
most indispensable for daily life, so that in a short time she had built up a world within reach of her 
hand. She managed to arouse a great love in little Amaranta Ursula, who was just like her, and whom 
she taught how to read. Her lucidity, the ability to be sufficient un herself made one think that she 
was naturally conquered by the weight of her hundred years, but even though it was obvious that she 
was having trouble seeing, no one suspected that she was totally blind. She had so much time at her 
disposal then and so much interior silence to watch over the life of the house that she was the first 
to notice Meme’s silent tribulation. 

“Come here,” she told her. “Now that were alone, confess to this poor old woman what’s 
bothering you.” 

Meme avoided the conversation with a short laugh. Ursula did not insist, but she ended up 
confirming her suspicions when Meme did not come back to visit her. She knew that she was getting 
up earlier than usual, that she did not have a moment’s rest as she waited for the time for her to go 
out, that she spent whole nights walking back and forth in the adjoining bedroom, and that the 
fluttering of a butterfly would bother her. On one occasion she said that she was going to see Aureli¬ 
ano Segundo and Ursula was surprised that Fernanda’s imagination was so limited when her 
husband came to the house looking for his daughter. It was too obvious that Meme was involved in 
secret matters, in pressing matters, in repressed anxieties long before the night that Fernanda upset 
the house because she caught her kissing a man in the movies. 

Meme was so wrapped up in herself at that time that she accused Ursula of having told on her. 
Actually, she told on herself. For a long time she had been leaving a trail that would have awakened 
the most drowsy person and it took Fernanda so long to discover it because she too was befogged, 
by her relationship with the invisible doctors. Even so she finally noticed the deep silences, the 
sudden outbursts, the changes in mood, and the contradictions of her daughter. She set about on a 
disguised but implacable vigilance. She let her go out with her girl friends as always, she helped her 
get dressed for the Saturday parties, and she never asked an embarrassing question that might arouse 
her. She already had a great deal of proof that Meme was doing different things from what she said, 
and yet she would give no indication of her suspicions, hoping for the right moment. One night 
Meme said that she was going to the movies with her father. A short time later Fernanda heard the 
fireworks of the debauch and the unmistakable accordion of Aureliano Segundo from the direction 
of Petra Cotes’s place. Then she got dressed, went to the movie theater, and in the darkness of the 
seats she recognized her daughter. The upsetting feeling of certainty stopped her from seeing the 
man she was kissing, but she managed to hear his tremulous voice in the midst of the deafening 



shouts and laughter of the audience. “I’m sorry, love,” she heard him say, and she took Meme out of 
the place without saying a word to her, put her through the shame of parading her along the noisy 
Street of the Turks, and locked her up in her bedroom. 

On the following day at six in the afternoon, Fernanda recognized the voice of the man who 
came to call on her. He was young, sallow, with dark and melancholy eyes which would not have 
startled her so much if she had known the gypsies, and a dreamy air that to any woman with a heart 
less rigid would have been enough to make her understand her daughter’s motives. He was wearing 
a shabby linen suit with shoes that showed the desperate defense of superimposed patches of white 
zinc, and in his hand he was carrying a straw hat he had bought the Saturday before. In all of his life 
he could never have been as frightened as at that moment, but he had a dignity and presence that 
spared him from humiliation and a genuine elegance that was defeated only by tarnished hands and 
nails that had been shattered by rough work. Fernanda, however, needed only one look to guess his 
status of mechanic. She saw that he was wearing his one Sunday suit and that underneath his shirt he 
bore the rash of the banana company. She would not let him speak. She would not even let him 
come through the door, which a moment later she had to close because the house was filled with 
yellow butterflies. 

“Go away,” she told him. “You’ve got no reason to come calling on any decent person.” 

His name was Mauricio Babilonia. He had been born and raised in Macondo, and he was an 
apprentice mechanic in the banana company garage. Meme had met him by chance one afternoon 
when she went with Patricia Brown to get a car to take a drive through the groves. Since the 
chauffeur was sick they assigned him to take them and Meme was finally able to satisfy her desire to 
sit next to the driver and see what he did. Unlike the regular chauffeur, Mauricio Babilonia gave her 
a practical lesson. That was during the time that Meme was beginning to frequent Mr. Brown’s 
house and it was still considered improper for a lady to drive a car. So she was satisfied with the 
technical information and she did not see Mauricio Babilonia again for several months. Later on she 
would remember that during the drive her attention had been called to his masculine beauty, except 
for the coarseness of his hands, but that afterward she had mentioned to Patricia Brown that she 
had been bothered by his rather proud sense of security. The first Saturday that she went to the 
movies with her father she saw Mauricio Babilonia again, with his linen suit, sitting a few seats away 
from them, and she noticed that he was not paying much attention to the film in order to turn 
around and look at her. Meme was bothered by the vulgarity of that. Afterward Mauricio Babilonia 
came over to say hello to Aureliano Segundo and only then did Meme find out that they knew each 
other because he had worked in Aureliano Triste’s early power plant and he treated her father with 
the air of an employee. That fact relieved the dislike that his pride had caused in her. They had never 
been alone together nor had they spoken except in way of greeting, the night when she dreamed that 
he was saving her from a shipwreck and she did not feel gratitude but rage. It was as if she had given 
him the opportunity he was waiting for, since Meme yearned for just the opposite, not only with 
Mauricio Babilonia but with any other man who was interested in her. Therefore she was so 
indignant after the dream that instead of hating him, she felt an irresistible urge to see him. The 
anxiety became more intense during the course of the week and on Saturday it was so pressing that 
she had to make a great effort for Mauricio Babilonia not to notice that when he greeted her in the 
movies her heart was in her mouth. Dazed by a confused feeling of pleasure and rage, she gave him 
her hand for the first time and only then did Mauricio Babilonia let himself shake hers. Meme 
managed to repent her impulse in a fraction of a second but the repentance changed immediately 
into a cruel satisfaction on seeing that his hand too was sweaty and cold. That night she realized that 
she would not have a moment of rest until she showed Mauricio Babilonia the uselessness of his 
aspiration and she spent the week turning that anxiety about in her mind. She resorted to all kinds of 
useless tricks so that Patricia Brown would go get the car with her. Finally she made use of the 



American redhead who was spending his vacation in Macondo at that time and with the pretext of 
learning about new models of cars she had him take her to the garage. From the moment she saw 
him Meme let herself be deceived by herself and believed that what was really going on was that she 
could not bear the desire to be alone with Mauricio Babilonia, and she was made indignant by the 
certainty that he understood that when he saw her arrive. 

“I came to see the new models,” Meme said. 

“That’s a fine excuse,” he said. 

Meme realized that he was burning in the heat of his pride, and she desperately looked for a way 
to humiliate him. But he would not give her any time. “Don’t get upset,” he said to her in a low 
voice. “It’s not the first time that a woman has gone crazy over a man.” She felt so defeated that she 
left the garage without seeing the new models and she spent the night turning over in bed and 
weeping with indignation. The American redhead, who was really beginning to interest her, looked 
like a baby in diapers. It was then that she realized that the yellow butterflies preceded the 
appearances of Mauricio Babilonia. She had seen them before, especially over the garage, and she 
had thought that they were drawn by the smell of paint. Once she had seen them fluttering about 
her head before she went into the movies. But when Mauricio Babilonia began to pursue her like a 
ghost that only she could identify in the crowd, she understood that the butterflies had something to 
do with him. Mauricio Babilonia was always in the audience at the concerts, at the movies, at high 
mass, and she did not have to see him to know that he was there, because the butterflies were always 
there. Once Aureliano Segundo became so impatient with the suffocating fluttering that she felt the 
impulse to confide her secret to him as she had promised, but instinct told her that he would laugh 
as usual and say: “What would your mother say if she found out?” One morning, while she was 
pruning the roses, Fernanda let out a cry of fright and had Meme taken away from the spot where 
she was, which was the same place in the garden where Remedios the Beauty had gone up to 
heaven. She had thought for an instant that the miracle was going to be repeated with her daughter, 
because she had been bothered by a sudden flapping of wings. It was the butterflies. Meme saw 
them as if they had suddenly been born out of the light and her heart gave a turn. At that moment 
Mauricio Babilonia came in with a package that according to what he said, was a present from 
Patricia Brown. Meme swallowed her blush, absorbed her tribulation, and even managed a natural 
smile as she asked him the favor of leaving it on the railing because her hands were dirty from the 
garden. The only tiling that Fernanda noted in the man whom a few months later she was to expel 
from the house without remembering where she had seen him was the bilious texture of his skin. 

“He’s a very strange man,” Fernanda said. “You can see in his face that he’s going to die.” 

Meme thought that her mother had been impressed by the butterflies When they finished 
pruning the row bushes she washed her hands and took the package to her bedroom to open it. It 
was a kind of Chinese toy, made up of five concentric boxes, and in the last one there was a card 
laboriously inscribed by someone who could barely write: We’ll get together Saturday at the movies. Meme 
felt with an aftershock that the box had been on the railing for a long time within reach of 
Fernanda’s curiosity, and although she was flattered by the audacity and ingenuity of Mauricio 
Babilonia, she was moved by his Innocence in expecting that she would keep the date. Meme knew 
at that time that Aureliano Segundo had an appointment on Saturday night. Nevertheless, the fire of 
anxiety burned her so much during the course of the week that on Saturday she convinced her father 
to leave her alone in the theater and come back for her after the show. A nocturnal butterfly 
fluttered about her head while the lights were on. And then it happened. When the lights went out, 
Mauricio Babilonia sat down beside her. Meme felt herself splashing in a bog of hesitation from 
which she could only be rescued, as had occurred in her dreams, by that man smelling of grease 
whom she could barely see in the shadows. 

“If you hadn’t come,” he said, “You never would have seen me again.” 



Meme felt the weight of his hand on her knee and she knew that they were both arriving at the 
other side of abandonment at that instant. 

“What shocks me about you,” she said, smiling, “is that you always say exactly what you 
shouldn’t be saying.” 

She lost her mind over him. She could not sleep and she lost her appetite and sank so deeply into 
solitude that even her father became an annoyance. She worked out an intricate web of false dates to 
throw Fernanda off the track, lost sight of her girl friends, leaped over conventions to be with 
Mauricio Babilonia at any time and at any place. At first his crudeness bothered her. The first time 
that they were alone on the deserted fields behind the garage he pulled her mercilessly into an animal 
state that left her exhausted. It took her time to realize that it was also a form of tenderness and it 
was then that she lost her calm and lived only for him, upset by the desire to sink into his stupefying 
odor of grease washed off by lye. A short time before the death of Amaranta she suddenly stumbled 
into in open space of lucidity within the madness and she trembled before the uncertainty of the 
future. Then she heard about a woman who made predictions from cards and went to see her in 
secret. It was Pilar Ternera. As soon as Pilar saw her come in she was aware of Meme’s hidden 
motives. “Sit down,” she told her. “I don’t need cards to tell the future of a Buendia,” Meme did not 
know and never would that the centenarian witch was her great-grandmother. Nor would she have 
believed it after the aggressive realism with which she revealed to her that the anxiety of falling in 
love could not find repose except in bed. It was the same point of view as Mauricio Babilonia’s, but 
Meme resisted believing it because underneath it all she imagined that it had been inspired by the 
poor judgment of a mechanic. She thought then that love on one side was defeating love on the 
other, because it was characteristic of men to deny hunger once their appetites were satisfied. Pilar 
Ternera not only cleared up that mistake, she also offered the old canopied bed where she had 
conceived Arcadio, Meme’s grandfather, and where afterward she conceived Aureliano Jose. She 
also taught her how to avoid an unwanted conception by means of the evaporation of mustard 
plasters and gave her recipes for potions that in cases of trouble could expel “even the remorse of 
conscience.” That interview instilled In Meme the same feeling of bravery that she had felt on the 
dmnken evening. Amaranta’s death, however, obliged her to postpone the decision. While the nine 
nights lasted she did not once leave the side of Mauricio Babilonia, who mingled with the crowd that 
invaded the house. Then came the long period of mourning and the obligatory withdrawal and they 
separated for a time. Those were days of such inner agitation, such irrepressible anxiety, and so 
many repressed urges that on the first evening that Meme was able to get out she went straight to 
Pilar Ternera’s. She surrendered to Mauricio Babilonia, without resistance, without shyness, without 
formalities, and with a vocation that was so fluid and an intuition that was so wise that a more 
suspicious man than hers would have confused them with obvious experience. They made love 
twice a week for more than three months, protected by the innocent complicity of Aureliano 
Segundo, who believed without suspicion in his daughter’s alibis simply in order to set her free from 
her mother’s rigidity. 

On the night that Fernanda surprised them in the movies Aureliano Segundo felt weighted down 
by the burden of his conscience and he visited Meme in the bedroom where Fernanda kept her 
locked up, trusting that she would reveal to him the confidences that she owed him. But Meme 
denied everything. She was so sure of herself, so anchored in her solitude that Aureliano Segundo 
had the impression that no link existed between them anymore, that the comradeship and the 
complicity were nothing but an illusion of the past. He thought of speaking to Mauricio Babilonia, 
thinking that his authority as his former boss would make him desist from his plans, but Petra Cotes 
convinced him that it was a woman’s business, so he was left floating in a limbo of indecision, barely 
sustained by the hope that the confinement would put an end to his daughter’s troubles. 



Meme showed no signs of affliction. On the contrary, from the next room Ursula perceived the 
peaceful rhythm of her sleep, the serenity of her tasks, the order of her meals, and the good health 
of her digestion. The only thing that intrigued Ursula after almost two months of punishment was 
that Meme did not take a bath in the morning like everyone else, but at seven in the evening. Once 
she thought of warning her about the scorpions, but Meme was so distant, convinced that she had 
given her away, that she preferred not to disturb her with the impertinences, of a great-great- 
grandmother. The yellow butterflies would invade the house at dusk. Every night on her way back 
from her bath Meme would find a desperate Fernanda killing butterflies with an insecticide bomb. 
“This is terrible,” she would say, “All my life they told me that butterflies at night bring bad luck.” 
One night while Meme was in the bathroom, Fernanda went into her bedroom by chance and there 
were so many butterflies that she could scarcely breathe. She grabbed for the nearest piece of cloth 
to shoo them away and her heart froze with terror as she connected her daughter’s evening baths 
with the mustard plasters that rolled onto the floor. She did not wait for an opportune moment as 
she had the first time. On the following day she invited the new mayor to lunch. Like her, he had 
come down from the highlands, and she asked him to station a guard in the backyard because she 
had the impression that hens were being stolen. That night the guard brought down Mauricio 
Babilonia as he was lifting up the tiles to get into the bathroom where Meme was waiting for him, 
naked and trembling with love among the scorpions and butterflies as she had done almost every 
night for the past few months. A bullet lodged in his spinal column reduced him to his bed for the 
rest of his life. Fie died of old age in solitude, without a moan, without a protest, without a single 
moment of betrayal, tormented by memories and by the yellow butterflies, who did not give him a 
moment’s peace, and ostracized as a chicken thief. 



Chapter 15 

THE EVENTS that would deal Macondo its fatal blow were just showing themselves when they 
brought Meme Buendia’s son home. The public situation was so uncertain then that no one had 
sufficient spirit to become involved with private scandals, so that Fernanda was able to count on an 
atmosphere that enabled her to keep the child hidden as if he had never existed. She had to take him 
in because the circumstances under which they brought him made rejection impossible. She had to 
tolerate him against her will for the rest of her life because at the moment of truth she lacked the 
courage to go through with her inner determination to drown him in the bathroom cistern. She 
locked him up in Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s old workshop. She succeeded in convincing Santa 
Sofia de la Piedad that she had found him floating in a basket. Ursula would die without ever 
knowing his origin. Little Amaranta Ursula, who went into the workshop once when Fernanda was 
feeding the child, also believed the version of the floating basket. Aureliano Segundo, having broken 
finally with his wife because of the irrational way in which she handled Meme’s tragedy, did not 
know of the existence of his grandson until three years after they brought him home, when the child 
escaped from captivity through an oversight on Fernanda’s part and appeared on the porch for a 
fraction of a second, naked, with matted hair, and with an impressive sex organ that was like a 
turkey’s wattles, as if he were not a human child but the encyclopedia definition of a cannibal. 

Fernanda had not counted on that nasty trick of her incorrigible fate. The child was like the 
return of a shame that she had thought exiled by her from the house forever. As soon as they carried 
off Mauricio Babilonia with his shattered spinal column, Fernanda had worked out the most minute 
details of a plan destined to wipe out all traces of the burden. Without consulting her husband, she 
packed her bags, put the three changes of clothing that her daughter would need into a small 
suitcase, and went to get her in her bedroom a half hour before the train arrived. 

“Let’s go, Renata,” she told her. 

She gave no explanation. Meme, for her part, did not expect or want any. She not only did not 
know where they were going, but it would have been the same to her if they had been taking her to 
the slaughterhouse. She had not spoken again nor would she do so for the rest of her life from the 
time that she heard the shot in the backyard and the simultaneous cry of pain from Mauricio 
Babilonia. When her mother ordered her out of the bedroom she did not comb her hair or wash her 
face and she got into the train as if she were walking in her sleep, not even noticing the yellow 
butterflies that were still accompanying her. Fernanda never found out nor did she take the trouble 
to, whether that stony silence was a determination of her will or whether she had become mute 
because of the impact of the tragedy. Meme barely took notice of the journey through the formerly 
enchanted region. She did not see the shady, endless banana groves on both sides of the tracks. She 
did not see the white houses of the gringos or their gardens, dried out by dust and heat, or the 
women in shorts and blue-striped shirts playing cards on the terraces. She did not see the oxcarts on 
the dusty roads loaded down with bunches of bananas. She did not see the girls diving into the 
transparent rivers like tarpons, leaving the passengers on the train with the bitterness of their 
splendid breasts, or the miserable huts of the workers all huddled together where Mauricio Babilo- 
nia’s yellow butterflies fluttered about and in the doorways of which there were green and squalid 
children sitting on their pots, and pregnant women who shouted insults at the train. That fleeting 
vision, which had been a celebration for her when she came home from school, passed through 
Meme’s heart without a quiver. She did not look out of the window, not even when the burning 
dampness of the groves ended and the train went through a poppy-laden plain where the carbonized 



skeleton of the Spanish galleon still sat and then came out into the dear air alongside the frothy, dirty 
sea where almost a century before Jose Arcadio Buendia’s illusions had met defeat. 

At five o’clock in the afternoon, when they had come to the last station in the swamp, she got 
out of the train because Fernanda made her. They got into a small carriage that looked like an 
enormous bat, drawn by an asthmatic horse, and they went through the desolate city in the endless 
streets of which, split by saltiness, there was the sound of a piano lesson just like the one that 
Fernanda heard during the siestas of her adolescence. They went on board a riverboat, the wooden 
wheel of which had a sound of conflagration, and whose msted metal plates reverberated like the 
mouth of an oven. Meme shut herself up in her cabin. Twice a day Fernanda left a plate of food by 
her bed and twice a day she took it away intact, not because Meme had resolved to die of hunger, 
but because even the smell of food was repugnant to her and her stomach rejected even water. Not 
even she herself knew that her fertility had outwitted the mustard vapors, just as Fernanda did not 
know until almost a year later, when they brought the child. In the suffocating cabin, maddened by 
the vibration of the metal plates and the unbearable stench of the mud stirred up by the paddle 
wheel, Meme lost track of the days. Much time had passed when she saw the last yellow butterfly 
destroyed in the blades of the fan and she admitted as an irremediable tmth that Mauricio Babilonia 
had died. She did not let herself be defeated by resignation, however. She kept on thinking about 
him during the arduous muleback crossing of the hallucinating plateau where Aureliano Segundo 
had become lost when he was looking for the most beautiful woman who had ever appeared on the 
face of the earth, and when they went over the mountains along Indian trails and entered the gloomy 
city in whose stone alleys the funereal bronze bells of thirty-two churches tolled. That night they 
slept in the abandoned colonial mansion on boards that Fernanda laid on the floor of a room 
invaded by weeds, wrapped in the shreds of curtains that they pulled off the windows and that fell to 
pieces with every turn of the body. Meme knew where they were because in the flight of her 
insomnia she saw pass by the gentleman dressed in black whom they delivered to the house inside a 
lead box on one distant Christmas Eve. On the following day, after mass, Fernanda took her to a 
somber building that Meme recognized immediately from her mother’s stories of the convent where 
they had raised her to be a queen, and then she understood that they had come to the end of the 
journey. While Fernanda was speaking to someone in the office next door, Meme remained in a 
parlor checkered with large oil paintings of colonial archbishops, still wearing an etamine dress with 
small black flowers and stiff high shoes which were swollen by the cold of the uplands. She was 
standing in the center of the parlor thinking about Mauricio Babilonia under the yellow stream of 
light from the stained glass windows when a very beautiful novice came out of the office carrying 
her suitcase with the three changes of clothing. As she passed Meme she took her hand without 

“Come, Renata,” she said to her. 

Meme took her hand and let herself be led. The last time that Fernanda saw her, trying to keep 
up with the novice, the iron grating of the cloister had just closed behind her. She was still thinking 
about Mauricio Babilonia, his smell of grease, and his halo of butterflies, and she would keep on 
thinking about him for all the days of her life until the remote autumn morning when she died of old 
age, with her name changed and her head shaved and without ever having spoken a word, in a 
gloomy hospital in Cracow. 

Fernanda returned to Macondo on a train protected by armed police. During the trip she noticed 
the tension of the passengers, the military preparations in the towns along the line, and an 
atmosphere rarified by the certainty that something serious was going to happen, but she had no 
information until she reached Macondo and they told her that Jose Arcadio Segundo was inciting 
the workers of the banana company to strike. “That’s all we need,” Fernanda said to herself. “An 
anarchist in the family.” The strike broke out two weeks later and it did not have the dramatic 



consequences that had been feared. The workers demanded that they not be obliged to cut and load 
bananas on Sundays, and the position seemed so just that even Father Antonio Isabel interceded in 
its favor because he found it in accordance with the laws of God. That victory, along with other 
actions that were initiated during the following months, drew the colorless Jose Arcadio Segundo 
out of his anonymity, for people had been accustomed to say that he was only good for filling up the 
town with French whores. With the same impulsive decision with which he had auctioned off his 
fighting cocks in order to organize a harebrained boat business, he gave up his position as foreman 
in the banana company and took the side of the workers. Quite soon he was pointed out as the 
agent of an international conspiracy against public order. One night, during the course of a week 
darkened by somber mmors, he miraculously escaped four revolver shots taken at him by an 
unknown party as he was leaving a secret meeting. The atmosphere of the following months was so 
tense that even Ursula perceived it in her dark corner, and she had the impression that once more 
she was living through the dangerous times when her son Aureliano carried the homeopathic pills of 
subversion in his pocket. She tried to speak to Jose Arcadio Segundo, to let him know about that 
precedent, but Aureliano Segundo told her that since the night of the attempt on his life no one 
knew his whereabouts. 

“Just like Aureliano,” Ursula exclaimed. “It’s as if the world were repeating itself.” 

Fernanda, was immune to the uncertainty of those days. She had no contact with the outside 
world since the violent altercation she had had with her husband over her having decided Memes 
fate without his consent. Aureliano Segundo was prepared to rescue his daughter with the help of 
the police if necessary, but Fernanda showed him some papers that were proof that she had entered 
the convent of her own free will. Meme had indeed signed once she was already behind the iron 
grating and she did it with the same indifference with which she had allowed herself to be led away. 
Underneath it all, Aureliano Segundo did not believe in the legitimacy of the proof. Just as he never 
believed that Mauricio Babilonia had gone into the yard to steal chickens, but both expedients 
served to ease his conscience, and thus he could go back without remorse under the shadow of Petra 
Cotes, where he revived his noisy revelry and unlimited gourmandizing. Foreign to the restlessness 
of the town, deaf to Ursula’s quiet predictions. Fernanda gave the last tarn to the screw of her 
preconceived plan. She wrote a long letter to her son Jose Arcadio, who was then about to take his 
first orders, and in it she told him that his sister Renata had expired in the peace of the Lord and as a 
consequence of the black vomit. Then she put Amaranta Ursula under the care of Santa Sofia de la 
Piedad and dedicated herself to organizing her correspondence with the invisible doctors, which had 
been upset by Meme’s trouble. The first thing that she did was to set a definite date for the 
postponed telepathic operation. But the invisible doctors answered her that it was not wise so long 
as the state of social agitation continued in Macondo. She was so urgent and so poorly Informed 
that she explained to them In another letter that there was no such state of agitation and that 
everything was the result of the lunacy of a brother-in-law of hers who was fiddling around at that 
time in that labor union nonsense just as he had been involved with cockfighting and riverboats 
before. They were still not in agreement on the hot Wednesday when an aged nun knocked at the 
door bearing a small basket on her arm. When she opened the door Santa Sofia de la Piedad thought 
that it was a gift and tried to take the small basket that was covered with a lovely lace wrap. But the 
nun stopped her because she had instmctions to give it personally and with the strictest secrecy to 
Dona Fernanda del Carpio de Buendia. It was Meme’s son. Fernanda’s former spiritual director 
explained to her in a letter that he had been born two months before and that they had taken the 
privilege of baptizing him Aureliano, for his grandfather, because his mother would not open her 
lips to tell them her wishes. Fernanda rose up inside against that trick of fate, but she had sufficient 
strength to hide it in front of the nun. 

“We’ll tell them that we found him floating in the basket,” she said smiling. 



“No one will believe it,” the nun said. 

“If they believe it in the Bible,” Fernanda replied, “I don’t see why they shouldn’t believe it from 

The nun lunched at the house while she waited for the train back, and in accordance with the 
discretion they asked of her, she did not mention the child again, but Fernanda viewed her as an 
undesirable witness of her shame and lamented the fact that they had abandoned the medieval 
custom of hanging a messenger who bore bad news. It was then that she decided to drown the child 
in the cistern as soon as the nun left, but her heart was not strong enough and she preferred to wait 
patiendy until the infinite goodness of God would free her from the annoyance. 

The new Aureliano was a year old when the tension of the people broke with no forewarning. 
Jose Arcadio Segundo and other union leaders who had remained underground until then suddenly 
appeared one weekend and organized demonstrations in towns throughout the banana region. The 
police merely maintained public order. But on Monday night the leaders were taken from their 
homes and sent to jail in the capital of the province with two-pound irons on their legs. Taken 
among them were Jose Arcadio Segundo and Lorenzo Gavilan, a colonel in the Mexican revolution, 
exiled in Macondo, who said that he had been witness to the heroism of his comrade Artemio Cruz. 
They were set free, however, within three months because of the fact that the government and the 
banana company could not reach an agreement as to who should feed them in jail. The protests of 
the workers this time were based on the lack of sanitary facilities in their living quarters, the 
nonexistence of medical services, and terrible working conditions. They stated, furthermore, that 
they were not being paid in real money but in scrip, which was good only to buy Virginia ham in the 
company commissaries. Jose Arcadio Segundo was put in jail because he revealed that the scrip 
system was a way for the company to finance its fruit ships; which without the commissary 
merchandise would have to return empty from New Orleans to the banana ports. The other 
complaints were common knowledge. The company physicians did not examine the sick but had 
them line up behind one another in the dispensaries and a nurse would put a pill the color of copper 
sulfate on their tongues, whether they had malaria, gonorrhea, or constipation. It was a cure that was 
so common that children would stand in line several times and instead of swallowing the pills would 
take them home to use as bingo markers. The company workers were crowded together in miserable 
barracks. The engineers, instead of putting in toilets, had a portable latrine for every fifty people 
brought to the camps at Christmas time and they held public demonstrations of how to use them so 
that they would last longer. The decrepit lawyers dressed in black who during other times had 
besieged Colonel Aureliano Buendia and who now were controlled by the banana company 
dismissed those demands with decisions that seemed like acts of magic. When the workers drew up 
a list of unanimous petitions, a long time passed before they were able to notify the banana company 
officially. As soon as he found out about the agreement Mr. Brown hitched his luxurious glassed-in 
coach to the train and disappeared from Macondo along with the more prominent representatives of 
his company. Nonetheless some workers found one of them the following Saturday in a brothel and 
they made him sign a copy of the sheet with the demands while he was naked with the women who 
had helped to entrap him. The mournful lawyers showed in court that that man had nothing to do 
with the company and in order that no one doubt their arguments they had him jailed as an 
impostor. Later on, Mr. Brown was surprised traveling incognito, in a third-class coach and they 
made him sign another copy of the demands. On the following day he appeared before the judges 
with his hair dyed black and speaking flawless Spanish. The lawyers showed that the man was not 
Mr. Jack Brown, the superintendent of the banana company, born in Prattville Alabama, but a 
harmless vendor of medicinal plants, born in Macondo and baptized there with the name of 
Dagoberto Fonseca. A while later, faced with a new attempt by the workers the lawyers publicly 
exhibited Mr. Brown’s death certificate, attested to by consuls and foreign ministers which bore 



witness that on June ninth last he had been run over by a fire engine in Chicago. Tired of that 
hermeneutical delirium, the workers turned away from the authorities in Macondo and brought their 
complaints up to the higher courts. It was there that the sleight-of-hand lawyers proved that the 
demands lacked all validity for the simple reason that the banana company did not have, never had 
had, and never would have any workers in its service because they were all hired on a temporary and 
occasional basis. So that the fable of the Virginia ham was nonsense, the same as that of the 
miraculous pills and the Yuletide toilets, and by a decision of the court it was established and set 
down in solemn decrees that the workers did not exist. 

The great strike broke out. Cultivation stopped halfway, the fruit rotted on the trees and the 
hundred-twenty-car trains remained on the sidings. The idle workers overflowed the towns. The 
Street of the Turks echoed with a Saturday that lasted for several days and in the poolroom at the 
Hotel Jacob they had to arrange twenty-four-hour shifts. That was where Jose Arcadio Segundo was 
on the day it was announced that the army had been assigned to reestablish public order. Although 
he was not a man given to omens, the news was like an announcement of death that he had been 
waiting for ever since that distant morning when Colonel Gerineldo Marquez had let him see an 
execution. The bad omen did not change his solemnity, however. He took the shot he had planned 
and it was good. A short time later the dmmbeats, the shrill of the bugle, the shouting and running 
of the people told him that not only had the game of pool come to an end, but also the silent and 
solitary game that he had been playing with himself ever since that dawn execution. Then he went 
out into the street and saw them. There were three regiments, whose march in time to a galley dmm 
made the earth tremble. Their snorting of a many-headed dragon filled the glow of noon with a 
pestilential vapor. They were short, stocky, and brutelike. They perspired with the sweat of a horse 
and had a smell of suntanned hide and the taciturn and impenetrable perseverance of men from the 
uplands. Although it took them over an hour to pass by, one might have thought that they were only 
a few squads marching in a circle, because they were all identical, sons of the same bitch, and with 
the same stolidity they all bore the weight of their packs and canteens, the shame of their rifles with 
fixed bayonets, and the chancre of blind obedience and a sense of honor. Ursula heard them pass 
from her bed in the shadows and she made a crow with her fingers. Santa Sofia de la Piedad existed 
for an instant, leaning over the embroidered tablecloth that she had just ironed, and she thought of 
her son, Jose Arcadio Segundo, who without changing expression watched the last soldiers pass by 
the door of the Hotel Jacob. 

Martial law enabled the army to assume the functions of arbitrator in the controversy, but no 
effort at conciliation was made. As soon as they appeared in Macondo, the soldiers put aside their 
rifles and cut and loaded the bananas and started the trains mnning. The workers, who had been 
content to wait until then, went into the woods with no other weapons but their working machetes 
and they began to sabotage the sabotage. They burned plantations and commissaries, tore up tracks 
to impede the passage of the trains that began to open their path with machine-gun fire, and they cut 
telegraph and telephone wires. The irrigation ditches were stained with blood. Mr. Brown, who was 
alive in the electrified chicken coop, was taken out of Macondo with his family and those of his 
fellow countrymen and brought to a safe place under the protection of the army. The situation was 
threatening to lead to a bloody and unequal civil war when the authorities called upon the workers 
to gather in Macondo. The summons announced that the civil and military leader of the province 
would arrive on the following Friday ready to intercede in the conflict. 

Jose Arcadio Segundo was in the crowd that had gathered at the station on Friday since early in 
the morning. He had taken part in a meeting of union leaders and had been commissioned, along 
with Colonel Gavilan, to mingle in the crowd and orient it according to how things went. He did not 
feel well and a salty paste was beginning to collect on his palate when he noticed that the army had 
set up machine-gun emplacements around the small square and that the wired city of the banana 



company was protected by artillery pieces. Around twelve o’clock, waiting for a train that was not 
arriving, more than three thousand people, workers, women, and children, had spilled out of the 
open space in front of the station and were pressing into the neighboring streets, which the army 
had closed off with rows of machine guns. At that time it all seemed more like a jubilant fair than a 
waiting crowd. They had brought over the fritter and drink stands from the Street of the Turks and 
the people were in good spirits as they bore the tedium of waiting and the scorching sun. A short 
time before three o’clock the mmor spread that the official train would not arrive until the following 
day. The crowd let out a sigh of disappointment. An army lieutenant then climbed up onto the roof 
of the station where there were four machine-gun emplacements aiming at the crowd and called for 
silence. Next to Jose Arcadio Segundo there was a barefooted woman, very fat, with two children 
between the ages of four and seven. She was carrying the smaller one and she asked Jose Arcadio 
Segundo, without knowing him, if he would lift up the other one so that he could hear better. Jose 
Arcadio Segundo put the child on his shoulders. Many years later that child would still tell, to the 
disbelief of all, that he had seen the lieutenant reading Decree No. 4 of the civil and military leader 
of the province through an old phonograph horn. It had been signed by General Carlos Cortes 
Vargas and his secretary. Major Enrique Garcia Isaza, and in three articles of eighty words he 
declared the strikers to be a “bunch of hoodlums” and he authorized the army to shoot to kill. 

After the decree was read, in the midst of a deafening hoot of protest, a captain took the place of 
the lieutenant on the roof of the station and with the horn he signaled that he wanted to speak. The 
crowd was quiet again. 

“Ladies and gentlemen,” the captain said in a low voice that was slow and a little tired, “you have 
five minutes to withdraw.” 

The redoubled hooting and shouting drowned out the bugle call that announced the start of the 
count. No one moved. 

Five minutes have passed,” the captain said in the same tone. “One more minute and we’ll open 

Jose Arcadio Segundo, sweating ice, lowered the child and gave him to the woman. “Those 
bastards might just shoot,” she murmured. Jose Arcadio Segundo did not have time to speak 
because at that instant he recognized the hoarse voice of Colonel Gavilan echoing the words of the 
woman with a shout. Intoxicated by the tension, by the miraculous depth of the silence, and 
furthermore convinced that nothing could move that crowd held tight in a fascination with death, 
Jose Arcadio Segundo raised himself up over the heads in front of him and for the first time in his 
life he raised his voice. 

“You bastards!” he shouted. “Take the extra minute and stick it up your ass!” 

After his shout something happened that did not bring on fright but a kind of hallucination. The 
captain gave the order to fire and fourteen machine guns answered at once. But it all seemed like a 
farce. It was as if the machine guns had been loaded with caps, because their panting rattle could be 
heard and their incandescent spitting could be seen, but not the slightest reaction was perceived, not 
a cry, not even a sigh among the compact crowd that seemed petrified by an instantaneous 
invulnerability. Suddenly, on one side-of the station, a cry of death tore open the enchantment: 
“Aaaagh, Mother.” A seismic voice, a volcanic breath, the roar of a cataclysm broke out in the center 
of the crowd with a great potential of expansion. Jose Arcadio Segundo barely had time to pick up 
the child while the mother with the other one was swallowed up by the crowd that swirled about in 

Many years later that child would still tell, in spite of people thinking that he was a crazy old man, 
how Jose Arcadio Segundo had lifted him over his head and hauled him, almost in the air, as if 
floating on the terror of the crowd, toward a nearby street. The child’s privileged position allowed 



him to see at that moment that the wild mass was starting to get to the comer and the row of 
machine guns opened fire. Several voices shouted at the same time: 

“Get down! Get down!” 

The people in front had already done so, swept down by the wave of bullets. The survivors, 
instead of getting down, tried to go back to the small square, and the panic became a dragon’s tail as 
one compact wave ran against another which was moving in the opposite direction, toward the 
other dragon’s tail In the street across the way, where the machine guns were also firing without 
cease. They were Penned in. swirling about in a gigantic whirlwind that little by little was being 
reduced to its epicenter as the edges were systematically being cut off all around like an onion being 
peeled by the insatiable and methodical shears of the machine guns. The child saw a woman 
kneeling with her arms in the shape of a cross in an open space, mysteriously free of the stampede. 
Jose Arcadio Segundo put him up there at the moment he fell with his face bathed in blood, before 
the colossal troop wiped out the empty space, the kneeling woman, the light of the high, drought- 
stricken sky, and the whorish world where Ursula Iguaran had sold so many little candy animals. 

When Jose Arcadio Segundo came to he was lying face up in the darkness. He realized that he 
was riding on an endless and silent train and that his head was caked with dry blood and that all his 
bones ached. He felt an intolerable desire to sleep. Prepared to sleep for many hours, safe from the 
terror and the horror, he made himself comfortable on the side that pained him less, and only then 
did he discover that he was lying against dead people. There was no free space in the car except for 
an aisle in the middle. Several hours must have passed since the massacre because the corpses had 
the same temperature as a plaster in autumn and the same consistency of petrified foam that it had, 
and those who had put them in the car had had time to pile them up in the same way in which they 
transported bunches of bananas. Trying to flee from the nightmare, Jose Arcadio Segundo dragged 
himself from one car to an other in the direction in which the train was heading, and in the flashes 
of light that broke through the wooden slats as they went through sleeping towns he saw the man 
corpses, woman corpses, child corpses who would be thrown into the sea like rejected bananas. He 
recognized only a woman who sold drinks in the square and Colonel Gavilan, who still held 
wrapped in his hand the belt with a buckle of Morelia silver with which he had tried to open his way 
through the panic. When he got to the first car he jumped into the darkness and lay beside the tracks 
until the train had passed. It was the longest one he had ever seen, with almost two hundred freight 
cars and a locomotive at either end and a third one in the middle. It had no lights, not even the red 
and green running lights, and it slipped off with a nocturnal and stealthy velocity. On top of the cars 
there could be seen the dark shapes of the soldiers with their emplaced machine guns. 

After midnight a torrential cloudburst came up. Jose Arcadio Segundo did not know where it was 
that he had jumped off, but he knew that by going in the opposite direction to that of the train he 
would reach Macondo. After walking for more than three hours, soaked to the skin, with a terrible 
headache, he was able to make out the first houses in the light of dawn. Attracted by the smell of 
coffee, he went into a kitchen where a woman with a child in her arms was leaning over the stove. 

“Hello,” he said, exhausted. “I’m Jose Arcadio Segundo Buendia.” 

He pronounced his whole name, letter by letter, in order to convince her that he was alive. He 
was wise in doing so, because the woman had thought that he was an apparition as she saw the dirty, 
shadowy figure with his head and clothing dirty with blood and touched with the solemnity of death 
come through the door. She recognized him. She brought him a blanket so that he could wrap 
himself up while his clothes dried by the fire, she warmed some water to wash his wound, which was 
only a flesh wound, and she gave him a clean diaper to bandage his head. Then she gave him a mug 
of coffee without sugar as she had been told the Buendias drank it, and she spread his clothing out 
near the fire. 

Jose Arcadio Segundo did not speak until he had finished drinking his coffee. 



“There must have been three thousand of them” he murmured. 


“The dead,” he clarified. “It must have been an of the people who were at the station.” 

The woman measured him with a pitying look. “There haven’t been any dead here,” she said. 
“Since the time of your uncle, the colonel, nothing has happened in Macondo.” In the three kitchens 
where Jose Arcadio Segundo stopped before reaching home they told him the same thing. “There 
weren’t any dead. He went through the small square by the station and he saw the fritter stands piled 
one on top of the other and he could find no trace of the massacre. The streets were deserted under 
the persistent rain and the houses locked up with no trace of life inside. The only human note was 
the first tolling of the bells for mass. He knocked at the door at Colonel Gavilan’s house. A pregnant 
woman whom he had seen several times closed the door in his face. “He left,” she said, frightened. 
“He went back to his own country.” The main entrance to the wire chicken coop was guarded as 
always by two local policemen who looked as if they were made of stone under the rain, with 
raincoats and mbber boots. On their marginal street the West Indian Negroes were singing Saturday 
psalms. Jose Arcadio Segundo jumped over the courtyard wall and entered the house through the 
kitchen. Santa Sofia de la Piedad barely raised her voice. “Don’t let Fernanda see you,” she said. 
“She’s just getting up.” As if she were fulfilling an implicit pact, she took her son to the 
“chamberpot room.” arranged Melquiades’ broken-down cot for him and at two in the afternoon, 
while Fernanda was taking her siesta, she passed a plate of food in to him through the window. 

Aureliano Segundo had slept at home because the rain had caught him time and at three in the 
afternoon he was still waiting for it to clear. Informed in secret by Santa Sofia de la Piedad, he 
visited his brother in Melquiades’ room at that time. He did not believe the version of the massacre 
or the nightmare trip of the train loaded with corpses traveling toward the sea either. The night 
before he had read an extraordinary proclamation to the nation which said that the workers had left 
the station and had returned home in peaceful groups. The proclamation also stated that the union 
leaders, with great patriotic spirit, had reduced their demands to two points: a reform of medical 
services and the building of latrines in the living quarters. It was stated later that when the military 
authorities obtained the agreement with the workers, they hastened to tell Mr. Brown and he not 
only accepted the new conditions but offered to pay for three days of public festivities to celebrate 
the end of the conflict. Except that when the military asked him on what date they could announce 
the signing of the agreement, he looked out the window at the sky crossed with lightning flashes and 
made a profound gesture of doubt. 

“When the rain stops,” he said. “As long as the rain lasts we’re suspending all activities.” 

It had not rained for three months and there had been a drought. But when Mr. Brown 
announced his decision a torrential downpour spread over the whole banana region. It was the one 
that caught Jose Arcadio Segundo on his way to Macondo. A week later it was still raining. The 
official version, repeated a thousand times and mangled out all over the country by every means of 
communication the government found at hand, was finally accepted: there were no dead, the 
satisfied workers had gone back to their families, and the banana company was suspending all 
activity until the rains stopped. Martial law continued with an eye to the necessity of taking 
emergency measures for the public disaster of the endless downpour, but the troops were confined 
to quarters. During the day the soldiers walked through the torrents in the streets with their pant 
legs rolled up, playing with boats with the children. At night after taps, they knocked doors down 
with their rifle butts, hauled suspects out of their beds, and took them off on trips from which there 
was no return. The search for and extermination of the hoodlums, murderers, arsonists, and rebels 
of Decree No. 4 was still going on, but the military denied it even to the relatives of the victims who 
crowded the commandant’s offices in search of news. “You must have been dreaming,” the officers 



insisted. “Nothing has happened in Macondo, nothing has ever happened, and nothing ever will 
happen. “This is a happy town.” In that way they were finally able to wipe out the union leaders. 

The only survivor was Jose Arcadio Segundo. One February night the unmistakable blows of rifle 
butts were heard at the door. Aureliano Segundo, who was still waiting for it to clear, opened the 
door to six soldiers under the command of an officer. Soaking from the rain, without saying a word, 
they searched the house room by room, closet by closet, from parlor to pantry. Ursula woke up 
when they turned on the light in her room and she did not breathe while the march went on but 
held her fingers in the shape of a cross, pointing them to where the soldiers were moving about. 
Santa Sofia de la Piedad managed to warn Jose Arcadio Segundo, who was sleeping in Melquiades’ 
room, but he could see that it was too late to try to escape. So Santa Sofia de la Piedad locked the 
door again and he put on his shirt and his shoes and sat down on the cot to wait for them. At that 
moment they were searching the gold workshop. The officer made them open the padlock and with 
a quick sweep of his lantern he saw the workbench and the glass cupboard with bottles of acid and 
instruments that were still where their owner had left them and he seemed to understand that no 
one lived in that room. He wisely asked Aureliano Segundo if he was a silversmith, however, and the 
latter explained to him that it had been Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s workshop. “Oho,” the officer 
said, turned on the lights, and ordered such a minute search that they did not miss the eighteen little 
gold fishes that had not been melted down and that were hidden behind the bottles Is their tin can. 
The officer examined them one by one on the workbench and then he turned human. “I’d like to 
take one, if I may,” he said. “At one time they were a mark of subversion, but now they’re relics.” - 
He was young, almost an adolescent, with no sign of timidity and with a natural pleasant manner 
that had not shown itself until then. Aureliano Segundo gave him the little fish. The officer put it in 
his shirt pocket with a childlike glow in his eyes and he put the others back in the can and set it back 
where it had been. 

“It’s a wonderful memento,” he said. “Colonel Aureliano Buendfa was one of our greatest men.” 

Nevertheless, that surge of humanity did not alter his professional conduct. At Melquiades’ room, 
which was locked up again with the padlock, Santa Sofia de la Piedad tried one last hope. “No one 
has lived in that room for a century,” she said. The officer had it opened and flashed the beam of 
the lantern over it, and Aureliano Segundo and Santa Sofia de la Piedad saw the Arab eyes of Jose 
Arcadio Segundo at the moment when the ray of light passed over his face and they understood that 
it was the end of one anxiety and the beginning of another which would find relief only in 
resignation. But the officer continued examining the room with the lantern and showed no sign of 
interest until he discovered the seventy-two chamberpots piled up in the cupboards. Then he turned 
on the light. Jose Arcadio Segundo was sitting on the edge of the cot, ready to go, more solemn and 
pensive than ever. In the background were the shelves with the shredded books, the rolls of 
parchment, and the clean and orderly worktable with the ink still fresh in the inkwells. There was the 
same pureness in the air, the same clarity, the same respite from dust and destruction that Aureliano 
Segundo had known in childhood and that only Colonel Aureliano Buendia could not perceive. But 
the officer was only interested in the chamberpots. 

“How many people live in this house?’ he asked. 


The officer obviously did not understand. He paused with his glance on the space where 
Aureliano Segundo and Santa Soft de la Piedad were still seeing Jose Arcadio Segundo and the latter 
also realized that the soldier was looking at him without seeing him. Then he turned out the light 
and closed the door. When he spoke to the soldiers, Aureliano, Segundo understood that the young 
officer had seen the room with the same eyes as Colonel Aureliano Buendia. 

“It’s obvious that no one has been in that room for at least a hundred years.” the officer said to 
the soldiers. “There must even be snakes in there.” 



When the door closed, Jose Arcadio Segundo was sure that the war was over. Years before 
Colonel Aureliano Buendla had spoken to him about the fascination of war and had tried to show it 
to him with countless examples drawn from his own experience. He had believed him. But the night 
when the soldiers looked at him without seeing him while he thought about the tension of the past 
few months, the misery of jail, the panic at the station, and the train loaded with dead people, Jose 
Arcadio Segundo reached the conclusion that Colonel Aureliano Buendia was nothing but a faker or 
an imbecile. He could not understand why he had needed so many words to explain what he felt in 
war because one was enough: fear. In Melquiades’ room, on the other hand, protected by the 
supernatural light, by the sound of the rain, by the feeling of being invisible, he found the repose 
that he had not had for one single instant during his previous life, and the only fear that remained 
was that they would bury him alive. He told Santa Sofia de la Piedad about it when she brought him 
his daily meals and she promised to struggle to stay alive even beyond her natural forces in order to 
make sure that they would bury him dead. Free from all fear, Jose Arcadio Segundo dedicated 
himself then to pemse the manuscripts of Melquiades many times, and with so much more pleasure 
when he could not understand them. He became accustomed to the sound of the rain, which after 
two months had become another form of silence, and the only thing that disturbed his solitude was 
the coming and going of Santa Sofia de la Piedad. He asked her, therefore, to leave the meals on the 
windowsill and padlock the door. The rest of the family forgot about him including Fernanda, who 
did not mind leaving him there when she found that the soldiers had seen him without recognizing 
him. After six months of enclosure, since the soldiers had left Macondo Aureliano Segundo 
removed the padlock, looking for someone he could talk to until the rain stopped. As soon as he 
opened the door he felt the pestilential attack of the chamberpots, which were placed on the floor 
and all of which had been used several times. Jose Arcadio Segundo, devoured by baldness, 
indifferent to the air that had been sharpened by the nauseating vapors, was still reading and 
rereading the unintelligible parchments. He was illuminated by a seraphic glow. He scarcely raised 
his eyes when he heard the door open, but that look was enough for his brother to see repeated in it 
the irreparable fate of his great-grandfather. 

“There were more than three thousand of them,” was all that Jose Arcadio Segundo said. “I’m 
sure now that they were everybody who had been at the station.” 



Chapter 16 

IT RAINED FOR four years, eleven months, and two days. There were periods of drizzle during which 
everyone put on his full dress and a convalescent look to celebrate the clearing, but the people soon 
grew accustomed to interpret the pauses as a sign of redoubled rain. The sky cmmbled into a set of 
destructive storms and out of the north came hurricanes that scattered roofs about and knocked 
down walls and uprooted every last plant of the banana groves. Just as during the insomnia plague, 
as Ursula came to remember during those days, the calamity itself inspired defenses against 
boredom. Aureliano Segundo was one of those who worked hardest not to be conquered by 
idleness. He had gone home for some minor matter on the night that Mr. Brown unleashed the 
storm, and Fernanda tried to help him with a half-blown-out umbrella that she found in a closet. “I 
don’t need it,” he said. “I’ll stay until it clears.” That was not, of course, an ironclad promise, but he 
would accomplish it literally. Since his clothes were at Petra Cotes’s, every three days he would take 
off what he had on and wait in his shorts until they washed. In order not to become bored, he 
dedicated himself to the task of repairing the many things that needed fixing in the house. He 
adjusted hinges, oiled locks, screwed knockers tight, and planed doorjambs. For several months he 
was seen wandering about with a toolbox that the gypsies must have left behind in Jose Arcadio 
Buendia’s days, and no one knew whether because of the involuntary exercise, the winter tedium or 
the imposed abstinence, but his belly was deflating little by little like a wineskin and his face of a 
beatific tortoise was becoming less bloodshot and his double chin less prominent until he became 
less pachydermic all over and was able to tie Iris own shoes again. Watching him putting in latches 
and repairing clocks, Fernanda wondered whether or not he too might be falling into the vice of 
building so that he could take apart like Colonel Aureliano Buendia and his little gold fishes, 
Amaranta and her shroud and her buttons, Jose Arcadio and the parchments, and Ursula and her 
memories. But that was not the case. The worst part was that the rain was affecting everything and 
the driest of machines would have flowers popping out among their gears if they were not oiled 
every three days, and the threads in brocades msted, and wet clothing would break out in a rash of 
saffron-colored moss. The air was so damp that fish could have come in through the doors and 
swum out the windows, floating through the atmosphere in the rooms. One morning Ursula woke 
up feeling that she was reaching her end in a placid swoon and she had already asked them to take 
her to Father Antonio Isabel, even if it had to be on a stretcher, when Santa Sofia de la Piedad 
discovered that her back was paved with leeches. She took them off one by one, crushing them with 
a firebrand before they bled her to death. It was necessary to dig canals to get the water out of the 
house and rid it of the frogs and snails so that they could dry the floors and take the bricks from 
under the bedposts and walk in shoes once more. Occupied with the many small details that called 
for his attention, Aureliano Segundo did not realize that he was getting old until one afternoon when 
he found himself contemplating the premature dusk from a rocking chair and thinking about Petra 
Cotes without quivering. There would have been no problem in going back to Fernanda’s insipid 
love, because her beauty had become solemn with age, but the rain had spared him from all 
emergencies of passion and had filled him with the spongy serenity of a lack of appetite. He amused 
himself thinking about the things that he could have done in other times with that rain which had 
already lasted a year. He had been one of the first to bring zinc sheets to Macondo, much earlier 
than their popularization by the banana company, simply to roof Petra Cotes’s bedroom with them 
and to take pleasure in the feeling of deep intimacy that the sprinkling of the rain produced at that 
time. But even those wild memories of his mad youth left him unmoved, just as during his last 
debauch he had exhausted his quota of salaciousness and all he had left was the marvelous gift of 



being able to remember it without bitterness or repentance. It might have been thought that the 
deluge had given him the opportunity to sit and reflect and that the business of the pliers and the 
oilcan had awakened in him the tardy yearning of so many useful trades that he might have followed 
in his life and did not; but neither case was tme, because the temptation of a sedentary domesticity 
that was besieging him was not the result of any rediscovery or moral lesion, it came from much 
farther off, unearthed by the rain’s pitchfork from the days when in Melquiades’ room he would 
read the prodigious fables about flying carpets and whales that fed on entire ships and their crews. It 
was during those days that in a moment of carelessness little Aureliano appeared on the porch and 
Inis grandfather recognized the secret of his identity. He cut Inis hair, dressed him taught him not to 
be afraid of people, and very soon it was evident that he was a legitimate Aureliano Buendia, with his 
high cheekbones, his startled look, and his solitary air. It was a relief for Fernanda. For some time 
she had measured the extent of her pridefulness, but she could not find any way to remedy it 
because the more she thought of solutions the less rational they seemed to her. If she had known 
that Aureliano Segundo was going to take things the way he did, with the fine pleasure of a 
grandfather, she would not have taken so many turns or got so mixed up, but would have freed 
herself from mortification the year before Amaranta Ursula, who already had her second teeth, 
thought of her nephew as a scurrying toy who was a consolation for the tedium of the rain. 
Aureliano Segundo remembered then the English encyclopedia that no one had since touched in 
Meme’s old room. He began to show the children the pictures, especially those of animals, and later 
on the maps and photographs of remote countries and famous people. Since he did not know any 
English and could identify only the most famous cities and people, he would invent names and 
legends to satisfy the children’s insatiable curiosity. 

Fernanda really believed that her husband was waiting for it to clear to return to his concubine. 
During the first months of the rain she was afraid that he would try to slip into her bedroom and 
that she would have to undergo the shame of revealing to him that she was incapable of 
reconciliation since the birth of Amaranta Ursula. That was the reason for her anxious correspon¬ 
dence with the invisible doctors, intermpted by frequent disasters of the mail. During the first 
months when it was learned that the trains were jumping their tracks in the rain, a letter from the 
invisible doctors told her that hers were not arriving. Later on, when contact with the unknown 
correspondents was broken, she had seriously thought of putting on the tiger mask that her husband 
had worn in the bloody carnival and having herself examined under a fictitious name by the banana 
company doctors. But one of the many people who regularly brought unpleasant news of the deluge 
had told her that the company was dismantling its dispensaries to move them to where it was not 
raining. Then she gave up hope. She resigned herself to waiting until the rain stopped and the mail 
service was back to normal, and in the meantime she sought relief from her secret ailments with 
recourse to her imagination, because she would rather have died than put herself in the hands of the 
only doctor left in Macondo, the extravagant Frenchman who ate grass like a donkey. She drew close 
to Ursula, trusting that she would know of some palliative for her attacks. But her twisted habit of 
not calling things by their names made her put first things last and use “expelled” for “gave birth” 
and “burning” for “flow” so that it would all be less shameful, with the result that Ursula reached 
the reasonable conclusion that her trouble was intestinal rather than uterine, and she advised her to 
take a dose of calomel on an empty stomach. If it had not been for that suffering, which would have 
had nothing shameful about it for someone who did not suffer as well from shamefulness, and if it 
had not been for the loss of the letters, the rain would not have bothered Fernanda, because, after 
all, her whole life had been spent as if it had been raining. She did not change her schedule or 
modify her ritual. When the table was still raised up on bricks and the chairs put on planks so that 
those at the table would not get their feet wet, she still served with linen tablecloths and fine 
chinaware and with lighted candles, because she felt that the calamities should not be used as a 



pretext for any relaxation in customs. No one went out into the street any more. If it had depended 
on Fernanda, they would never have done so, not only since it started raining but since long before 
that, because she felt that doors had been invented to stay closed and that curiosity for what was 
going on in the street was a matter for harlots. Yet she was the first one to look out when they were 
told that the funeral procession for Colonel Gerineldo Marquez was passing by and even though she 
only watched it through the half-opened window it left her in such a state of affliction that for a long 
time she repented in her weakness. 

She could not have conceived of a more desolate cortege. They had put the coffin in an oxcart 
over which they built a canopy of banana leaves, but the pressure of the rain was so intense and the 
streets so muddy that with every step the wheels got stuck and the covering was on the verge of 
falling apart. The streams of sad water that fell on the coffin were soaking the flag that had been 
placed on top which was actually the flag stained with blood and gunpowder that had been rejected 
by more honorable veterans. On the coffin they had also placed the saber with tassels of silver and 
copper, the same one that Colonel Gerineldo Marquez used to hang on the coat rack in order to go 
into Amaranta’s sewing room unarmed. Behind the cart, some barefoot and all of them with their 
pants rolled up, splashing in the mud were the last survivors of the surrender at Neerlandia carrying 
a drover’s staff in one hand and in the other a wreath of paper flowers that had become discolored 
in the rain. They appeared like an unreal vision along the street which still bore the name of Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia and they all looked at the house as they passed and turned the corner at the 
square, where they had to ask for help to move the cart, which was stuck. Ursula had herself carried 
to the door by Santa Sofia de la Piedad. She followed the difficulties of the procession with such 
attention that no one doubted that she was seeing it, especially because her raised hand of an 
archangelic messenger was moving with the swaying of the cart. 

“Good-bye, Gerineldo, my son,” she shouted. “Say hello to my people and tell them I’ll see them 
when it stops raining.” 

Aureliano Segundo helped her back to bed and with the same informality with which he always 
treated her, he asked her the meaning of her farewell. 

“It’s true,” she said. “I’m only waiting for the rain to stop in order to die.” 

The condition of the streets alarmed Aureliano Segundo. He finally became worried about the 
state of his animals and he threw an oilcloth over his head and sent to Petra Cotes’s house. He 
found her in the courtyard, in the water up to her waist, trying to float the corpse of a horse. 
Aureliano Segundo helped her with a lever, and the enormous swollen body gave a turn like a bell 
and was dragged away by the torrent of liquid mud. Since the rain began, all that Petra Cotes had 
done was to clear her courtyard of dead animals. During the first weeks she sent messages to 
Aureliano Segundo for him to take urgent measures and he had answered that there was no msh, 
that the situation was not alarming, that there would be plenty of time to think about something 
when it cleared. She sent him word that the horse pastures were being flooded, that the cattle were 
fleeing to high ground, where there was nothing to eat and where they were at the mercy of jaguars 
and sickness. “There’s nothing to be done,” Aureliano Segundo answered her. “Others will be born 
when it clears.” Petra Cates had seen them die in dusters and the was able to butcher only those 
stuck in the mud. She saw with quiet impotence how the deluge was pitilessly exterminating a 
fortune that at one time was considered the largest and most solid in Macondo, and of which 
nothing remained but pestilence. When Aureliano Segundo decided to go see what was going on, he 
found only the corpse of the horse and a squalid mule in the ruins of the stable. Petra Cotes watched 
him arrive without surprise, joy, or resentment, and she only allowed herself an ironic smile. 

“It’s about time!” she said. 

She had aged, all skin and bones, and her tapered eyes of a carnivorous animal had become sad 
and tame from looking at the rain so much. Aureliano Segundo stayed at her house more than three 



months, not because he felt better there than in that of his family, but because he needed all that 
time to make the decision to throw the piece of oilcloth back over his head. “There’s no rush,” he 
said, as he had said in the other home. “Let’s hope that it clears in the next few hours.” During the 
course of the first week he became accustomed to the inroads that time and the rain had made in the 
health of his concubine, and little by little he was seeing her as she had been before, remembering 
her jubilant excesses and the delirious fertility that her love provoked in the animals, and partly 
through love, partly through interest, one night during the second week he awoke her with urgent 
caresses. Petra Cotes did not react. “Go back to sleep,” she murmured. “These aren’t times for 
things like that.” Aureliano Segundo saw himself in the mirrors on the ceiling, saw Petra Cotes’s 
spinal column like a row of spools strung together along a cluster of withered nerves, and he saw 
that she was right, not because of the times but because of themselves, who were no longer up to 
those things. 

Aureliano Segundo returned home with Inis tmnks, convinced that not only Ursula but all the 
inhabitants of Macondo were waiting for it to dear in order to die. He had seen them as he passed 
by, sitting in their parlors with an absorbed look and folded arms, feeling unbroken time pass, 
relentless times, because it was useless to divide it into months and years, and the days into hours, 
when one could do nothing but contemplate the rain. The children greeted Aureliano Segundo with 
excitement because he was playing the asthmatic accordion for them again. But the concerts did not 
attract their attention as much as the sessions with the encyclopedia, and once more they got 
together in Meme’s room, where Aureliano Segundo’s imagination changed a dirigible into a flying 
elephant who was looking for a place to sleep among the clouds. On one occasion he came across a 
man on horseback who in spite of his strange outfit had a familiar look, and after examining him 
closely he came to the conclusion that it was a picture of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. He showed it 
to Fernanda and she also admitted the resemblance of the horseman not only to the colonel but to 
everybody in the family, although he was actually a Tartar warrior. Time passed in that way with the 
Colossus of Rhodes and snake charmers until his wife told him that there were only three pounds of 
dried meat and a sack of rice left in the pantry. 

And what do you want me to do about it?” he asked. 

“I don’t know,” Fernanda answered. “That’s men’s business.” 

“Well,” Aureliano Segundo said, “something will be done when it clears.” 

He was more interested in the encyclopedia than In the domestic problem, even when he had to 
content himself with a scrap of meat and a little rice for lunch. “It’s impossible to do anything now,” 
he would say. “It can’t rain for the rest of our lives.” And while the urgencies of the pantry grew 
greater, Fernanda’s indignation also grew, until her eventual protests, her infrequent outbursts came 
forth in an uncontained, unchained torrent that begin one morning like the monotonous drone of a 
guitar and as the day advanced rose in pitch, richer and more splendid. Aureliano Segundo was not 
aware of the singsong until the following day after breakfast when he felt himself being bothered by 
a buzzing that was by then more fluid and louder than the sound of the rain, and it was Fernanda, 
who was walking throughout the house complaining that they had raised her to be a queen only to 
have her end up as a servant in a madhouse, with a lazy, idolatrous, libertine husband who lay on his 
back waiting for bread to rain down from heaven while she was straining her kidneys trying to keep 
afloat a home held together with pins where there was so much to do, so much to bear up under 
and repair from the time God gave Inis morning sunlight until it was time to go to bed that when she 
got there her eyes were full of ground glass, and yet no one ever said to her, “Good morning, 
Fernanda, did you sleep well?” Nor had they asked her, even out of courtesy, why she was so pale or 
why she awoke with purple rings under her eyes in spite of the fact that she expected it, of course, 
from a family that had always considered her a nuisance, an old rag, a booby painted on the wall, and 
who were always going around saying things against her behind her back, calling her church mouse. 



calling her Pharisee, calling her crafty, and even Amaranta, may she rest in peace, had said aloud that 
she was one of those people who could not tell their rectums from their ashes, God have mercy, 
such words, and she had tolerated everything with resignation because of the Holy Father, but she 
had not been able to tolerate it any more when that evil Jose Arcadio Segundo said that the 
damnation of the family had come when it opened its doors to a stuck-up highlander, just imagine, a 
bossy highlander, Lord save us, a highlander daughter of evil spit of the same stripe as the 
highlanders the government sent to kill workers, you tell me, and he was referring to no one but her, 
the godchild of the Duke of Alba, a lady of such lineage that she made the liver of presidents’ wives 
quiver, a noble dame of fine blood like her, who had the right to sign eleven peninsular names and 
who was the only mortal creature in that town full of bastards who did not feel all confused at the 
sight of sixteen pieces of silverware, so that her adulterous husband could die of laughter afterward 
and say that so many knives and forks and spoons were not meant for a human being but for a 
centipede, and the only one who could tell with her eyes closed when the white wine was served and 
on what side and in which glass and when the red wine and on what side and in which glass, and not 
like that peasant of an Amaranta, may she rest in peace, who thought that white wine was served in 
the daytime and red wine at night, and the only one on the whole coast who could take pride in the 
fact that she took care of her bodily needs only in golden chamberpots, so that Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia, may he rest in peace, could have the effrontery to ask her with his Masonic Ill humor 
where she had received that privilege and whether she did not shit shit but shat sweet basil, just 
imagine, with those very words, and so that Renata, her own daughter, who through an oversight 
had seen her stool in the bedroom, had answered that even if the pot was all gold and with a coat of 
arms, what was inside was pure shit, physical shit, and worse even than any other kind because it was 
stuck-up highland shit, just imagine, her own daughter, so that she never had any illusions about the 
rest of the family, but in any case she had the right to expect a little more consideration from her 
husband because, for better or for worse, he was her consecrated spouse her helpmate, her legal 
despoiler, who took upon himself of his own free and sovereign will the grave responsibility of 
taking her away from her paternal home, where she never wanted for or suffered from anything, 
where she wove funeral wreaths as a pastime, since her godfather had sent a letter with his signature 
and the stamp of his ring on the sealing wax simply to say that the hands of his goddaughter were 
not meant for tasks of this world except to play the clavichord, and, nevertheless, her insane 
husband had taken her from her home with all manner of admonitions and warnings and had 
brought her to that frying pan of hell where a person could not breathe because of the heat, and 
before she had completed her Pentecostal fast he had gone off with his wandering trunks and his 
wastrel’s accordion to loaf in adultery with a wretch of whom it was only enough to see her behind, 
well, that’s been said, to see her wiggle her mare’s behind in order to guess that she was a, that she 
was a, just the opposite of her, who was a lady in a palace or a pigsty, at the table or in bed, a lady of 
breeding, God-fearing, obeying His laws and submissive to His wishes, and with whom he could not 
perform, naturally, the acrobatics and trampish antics that he did with the other one, who, of course, 
was ready for anything like the French matrons, and even worse, if one considers well, because they 
at least had the honesty to put a red light at their door, swinishness like that, just imagine, and that 
was all that was needed by the only and beloved daughter of Dona Renata Argote and Don 
Fernando del Carpio, and especially the latter, an upright man, a fine Christian, a Knight of the 
Order of the Holy Sepulcher, those who receive direct from God the privilege of remaining intact in 
their graves with their skin smooth like the cheeks of a bride and their eyes alive and clear like 

“That’s not true,” Aureliano Segundo interrupted her. “He was already beginning to smell when 
they brought him here.” 



He had the patience to listen to her for a whole day until he caught her in a slip. Fernanda did not 
pay him any mind, but she lowered her voice. That night at dinner the exasperating buzzing of the 
singsong had conquered the sound of the rain. Aureliano, Segundo ate very little, with his head 
down, and he went to his room early. At breakfast on the following day Fernanda was trembling, 
with a look of not having slept well, and she seemed completely exhausted by her rancor. Never¬ 
theless, when her husband asked if it was not possible to have a soft-boiled egg, she did not answer 
simply that they had run out of eggs the week before, but she worked up a violent diatribe against 
men who spent their time contemplating their navels and then had the gall to ask for larks’ livers at 
the table. Aureliano Segundo took the children to look at the encyclopedia, as always, and Fernanda 
pretended to straighten out Meme’s room just so that he could listen to her muttering, of course, 
that it certainly took cheek for him to tell the poor innocents that there was a picture of Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia in the encyclopedia. During the afternoon, while the children were having their 
nap, Aureliano Segundo sat on the porch and Fernanda pursued him even there, provoking him, 
tormenting him, hovering about him with her implacable horsefly buzzing, saying that, of course, 
while there was nothing to eat except stones, her husband was sitting there like a sultan of Persia, 
watching it rain, because that was all he was, a slob, a sponge, a good-for-nothing, softer than cotton 
batting, used to living off women and convinced that he had married Jonah’s wife, who was so 
content with the story of the whale. Aureliano Segundo listened to her for more than two hours, 
impassive, as if he were deaf. He did not interrupt her until late in the afternoon, when he could no 
longer bear the echo of the bass drum that was tormenting his head. 

“Please shut up,” he begged. 

Fernanda, quite the contrary, raised her pitch. “I don’t have any reason to shut up,” she said. 
“Anyone who doesn’t want to listen to me can go someplace else.” Then Aureliano Segundo lost 
control. He stood up unhurriedly, as if he only intended to stretch, and with a perfectly regulated 
and methodical fury he grabbed the pots with the begonias one after the other, those with the ferns, 
the oregano, and one after the other he smashed them onto the floor. Fernanda was frightened 
because until then she had really not had a clear indication of the tremendous inner force of her 
singsong, but it was too late for any attempt at rectification. Intoxicated by the uncontained torrent 
of relief, Aureliano Segundo broke the glass on the china closet and piece by piece, without hurrying, 
he took out the chinaware and shattered it on the floor. Systematically, serenely, in the same 
parsimonious way in which he had papered the house with banknotes, he then set about smashing 
the Bohemian crystal ware against the walls, the hand-painted vases, the pictures of maidens in flow¬ 
er-laden boats, the mirrors in their gilded frames, everything that was breakable, from parlor to 
pantry, and he finished with the large earthen jar in the kitchen, which exploded in the middle of the 
courtyard with a hollow boom. Then he washed his hands, threw the oilcloth over himself, and 
before midnight he returned with a few strings of dried meat, several bags of rice, corn with weevils, 
and some emaciated bunches of bananas. From then on there was no more lack of food. 

Amaranta Ursula and little Aureliano would remember the rains as a happy time. In spite of 
Fernanda’s strictness, they would splash in the puddles in the courtyard, catch lizards and dissect 
them, and pretend that they were poisoning the soup with dust from butterfly wings when Santa 
Sofia de la Piedad was not looking Ursula was their most amusing plaything. They looked upon her 
as a big,, broken-down doll that they carried back and forth from one corner to another wrapped in 
colored cloth and with her face painted with soot and annatto, and once they were on the point of 
plucking out her eyes with the pruning shears as they had done with the frogs. Nothing gave them as 
much excitement as the wanderings of her mind. Something, indeed, must have happened to her 
mind during the third year of the rain, for she was gradually losing her sense of reality and confusing 
present time with remote periods of her life to the point where, on one occasion, she spent three 
days weeping deeply over the death of Petronila Iguaran, her great-grandmother, buried for over a 



century. She sank into such an insane state of confusion that she thought little Aureliano was her 
son the colonel during the time he was taken to see ice, and that the Jose Arcadio who was at that 
time in the seminary was her firstborn who had gone off with the gypsies. She spoke so much about 
the family that the children learned to make up imaginary visits with beings who had not only been 
dead for a long time, but who had existed at different times. Sitting on the bed, her hair covered 
with ashes and her face wrapped in a red kerchief, Ursula was happy in the midst of the unreal 
relatives whom the children described in all detail, as if they had really known them. Ursula would 
converse with her forebears about events that took place before her own existence, enjoying the 
news they gave her, and she would weep with them over deaths that were much more recent than 
the guests themselves. The children did not take long to notice that in the course of those ghostly 
visits Ursula would always ask a question destined to establish the one who had brought a life-size 
plaster Saint Joseph to the house to be kept until the rains stopped. It was in that way that Aureliano 
Segundo remembered the fortune buried in some place that only Ursula knew, but the questions and 
astute maneuvering that occurred to him were of no use because in the labyrinth of her madness she 
seemed to preserve enough of a margin of lucidity to keep the secret which she would reveal only to 
the one who could prove that he was the real owner of the buried gold. She was so skillful and strict 
that when Aureliano Segundo instmcted one of his carousing companions to pass himself off as the 
owner of the fortune, she got him all caught up in a minute interrogation sown with subtle traps. 

Convinced that Ursula would carry the secret to her grave, Aureliano Segundo hired a crew of 
diggers under the pretext that they were making some drainage canals in the courtyard and the 
backyard, and he himself took soundings in the earth with iron bars and all manner of metal- 
detectors without finding anything that resembled gold in three months of exhaustive exploration. 
Later on he went to Pilar Ternera with the hope that the cards would we more than the diggers, but 
she began by explaining that any attempt would be useless unless Ursula cut the cards. On the other 
hand, she confirmed the existence of the treasure with the precision of its consisting of seven 
thousand two hundred fourteen coins buried in three canvas sacks reinforced with copper wire 
within a circle with a radius of three hundred eighty-eight feet with Ursula’s bed as the center, but 
she warned that it would not be found until it stopped raining and the suns of three consecutive 
Junes had changed the piles of mud into dust. The profusion and meticulous vagueness of the 
information seemed to Aureliano Segundo so similar to the tales of spiritualists that he kept on with 
his enterprise in spite of the fact that they were in August and they would have to wait at least three 
years in order to satisfy the conditions of the prediction. The first thing that startled him, even 
though it increased his confusion at the same time, was the fact that it was precisely three hundred 
eighty-eight feet from Ursula’s bed to the backyard wall. Fernanda feared that he was as crazy as his 
twin brother when she saw him taking the measurements, and even more when he told the digging 
crew to make the ditches three feet deeper. Overcome by an exploratory delirium comparable only 
to that of his great-grandfather when he was searching for the route of inventions, Aureliano Segun¬ 
do lost the last layers of fat that he had left and the old resemblance to his twin brother was 
becoming accentuated again, not only because of his slim figure, but also because of the distant air 
and the withdrawn attitude. He no longer bothered with the children. He ate at odd hours, muddled 
from head to toe, and he did so in a corner in the kitchen, barely answering the occasional questions 
asked by Santa Sofia de la Piedad. Seeing him work that way, as she had never dreamed him capable 
of doing, Fernanda thought that his stubbornness was diligence, his greed abnegation, and his thick¬ 
headedness perseverance, and her insides tightened with remorse over the vimlence with which she 
had attacked his idleness. But Aureliano Segundo was in no mood for merciful reconciliations at that 
time. Sunk up to his neck in a morass of dead brandies and rotting flowers, he flung the dirt of the 
garden all about after having finished with the courtyard and the backyard, and he excavated so 
deeply under the foundations of the east wing of the house that one night they woke up in terror at 



what seemed to be an earthquake, as much because of the trembling as the fearful underground 
creaking. Three of the rooms were collapsing and a frightening crack had opened up from the porch 
to Fernanda’s room. Aureliano Segundo did not give up the search because of that. Even when his 
last hopes had been extinguished and the only thing that seemed to make any sense was what the 
cards had predicted, he reinforced the jagged foundation, repaired the crack with mortar, and 
continued on the side to the west. He was still there on the second week of the following June when 
the rain began to abate and the clouds began to lift and it was obvious from one moment to the next 
that it was going to clear. That was what happened. On Friday at two in the afternoon the world 
lighted up with a crazy crimson sun as harsh as brick dust and almost as cool as water, and it did not 
rain again for ten years. 

Macondo was in mins. In the swampy streets there were the remains of furniture, animal 
skeletons covered with red lilies, the last memories of the hordes of newcomers who had fled 
Macondo as wildly as they had arrived. The houses that had been built with such haste during the 
banana fever had been abandoned. The banana company tore down its installations. All that 
remained of the former wired-in city were the ruins. The wooden houses, the cool terraces for 
breezy card-playing afternoons, seemed to have been blown away in an anticipation of the prophetic 
wind that years later would wipe Macondo off the face of the earth. The only human trace left by 
that voracious blast was a glove belonging to Patricia Brown in an automobile smothered in wild 
pansies. The enchanted region explored by Jose Arcadio Buendia in the days of the founding, where 
later on the banana plantations flourished, was a bog of rotting roots, on the horizon of which one 
could manage to see the silent foam of the sea. Aureliano Segundo went through a crisis of affliction 
on the first Sunday that he put on dry clothes and went out to renew his acquaintance with the 
town. The survivors of the catastrophe, the same ones who had been living in Macondo before it 
had been struck by the banana company hurricane, were sitting in the middle of the street enjoying 
their first sunshine. They still had the green of the algae on their skin and the musty smell of a 
corner that had been stamped on them by the rain, but in their hearts they seemed happy to have 
recovered the town in which they had been born. The Street of the Turks was again what it had 
been earlier, in the days when the Arabs with slippers and rings in their ears were going about the 
world swapping knickknacks for macaws and had found in Macondo a good bend in the road where 
they could find respite from their age-old lot as wanderers. Having crossed through to the other side 
of the rain, the merchandise in the booths was falling apart, the cloths spread over the doors were 
splotched with mold, the counters undermined by termites, the walls eaten away by dampness, but 
the Arabs of the third generation were sitting in the same place and in the same position as their 
fathers and grandfathers, taciturn, dauntless, invulnerable to time and disaster, as alive or as dead as 
they had been after the insomnia plague and Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s thirty-two wars. Their 
strength of spirit in the face of ruins of the gaming tables, the fritter stands, the shooting galleries, 
and the alley where they interpreted dreams and predicted the future made Aureliano Segundo ask 
them with his usual informality what mysterious resources they had relied upon so as not to have 
gone awash in the storm, what the devil they had done so as not to drown, and one after the other, 
from door to door, they returned a crafty smile and a dreamy look, and without any previous 
consultation they all gave the answer: 


Petra Cotes was perhaps the only native who had an Arab heart. She had seen the final 
destruction of her stables, her barns dragged off by the storm, but she had managed to keep her 
house standing. During the second year she had sent pressing messages to Aureliano Segundo and 
he had answered that he did not know when he would go back to her house, but that in any case he 
would bring along a box of gold coins to pave the bedroom floor with. At that time she had dug 
deep into her heart, searching for the strength that would allow her to survive the misfortune, and 



she had discovered a reflective and just rage with which she had sworn to restore the fortune 
squandered by her lover and then wiped out by the deluge. It was such an unbreakable decision that 
Aureliano Segundo went back to her house eight months after the last message and found her green 
disheveled, with sunken eyelids and skin spangled with mange, but she was writing out numbers on 
small pieces of paper to make a raffle. Aureliano Segundo was astonished, and he was so dirty and 
so solemn that Petra Cotes almost believed that the one who had come to see her was not the lover 
of all her life but his twin brother. 

“You’re crazy,” he told her. “Unless you plan to raffle off bones.” 

Then she told him to look in the bedroom and Aureliano Segundo saw the mule. Its skin was 
clinging to its bones like that of its mistress, but it was just as alive and resolute as she. Petra Cotes 
had fed it with her wrath, and when there was no more hay or corn or roots, she had given it shelter 
in her own bedroom and fed it on the percale sheets, the Persian rugs, the plush bedspreads, the 
velvet drapes, and the canopy embroidered with gold thread and silk tassels on the episcopal bed. 



Chapter 17 

URSULA HAD to make a great effort to fulfill her promise to die when it cleared. The waves of 
lucidity that were so scarce during the rains became more frequent after August, when an and wind 
began to blow and suffocated the rose bushes and petrified the piles of mud, and ended up 
scattering over Macondo the burning dust that covered the rusted zinc roofs and the age-old almond 
trees forever. Ursula cried in lamentation when she discovered that for more than three years she 
had been a plaything for the children. She washed her painted face, took off the strips of brightly 
colored cloth, the dried lizards and frogs, and the rosaries and old Arab necklaces that they had hung 
all over her body, and for the first time since the death of Amaranta she got up out of bed without 
anybody’s help to join in the family life once more. The spirit of her invincible heart guided her 
through the shadows. Those who noticed her stumbling and who bumped into the archangelic arm 
she kept raised at head level thought that she was having trouble with her body, but they still did not 
think she was blind. She did not need to see to realize that the flower beds, cultivated with such care 
since the first rebuilding, had been destroyed by the rain and mined by Aureliano Segundo’s 
excavations, and that the walls and the cement of the floors were cracked, the furniture mushy and 
discolored, the doors off their hinges, and the family menaced by a spirit of resignation and despair 
that was inconceivable in her time. Feeling her way along through the empty bedrooms she 
perceived the continuous rumble of the termites as they carved the wood, the snipping of the moths 
in the clothes closets, and the devastating noise of the enormous red ants that had prospered during 
the deluge and were undermining the foundations of the house. One day she opened the tmnk with 
the saints and had to ask Santa Sofia de la Piedad to get off her body the cockroaches that jumped 
out and that had already turned the clothing to dust. “A person can’t live in neglect like this,” she 
said. “If we go on like this we’ll be devoured by animals.” From then on she did not have a moment 
of repose. Up before dawn, she would use anybody available, even the children. She put the few 
articles of clothing that were still usable out into the sun, she drove the cockroaches off with 
powerful insecticide attacks, she scratched out the veins that the termites had made on doors and 
windows and asphyxiated the ants in their anthills with quicklime. The fever of restoration finally 
brought her to the forgotten rooms. She cleared out the rubble and cobwebs in the room where Jose 
Arcadio Buendfa had lost his wits looking for the Philosopher’s stone, she put the silver shop which 
had been upset by the soldiers in order, and lastly she asked for the keys to Melquiades’ room to see 
what state it was in. Faithful to the wishes of Jose Arcadio Segundo, who had forbidden anyone to 
come in unless there was a clear indication that he had died, Santa Sofia de la Piedad tried all kinds 
of subterfuges to throw Ursula off the track. But so inflexible was her determination not to 
surrender even the most remote corner of the house to the insects that she knocked down every 
obstacle in her path, and after three days of insistence she succeeded in getting them to open the 
door for her. She had to hold on to the doorjamb so that the stench would not knock her over, but 
she needed only two seconds to remember that the schoolgirls’ seventy-two chamberpots were in 
there and that on one of the rainy nights a patrol of soldiers had searched the house looking for Jose 
Arcadio Segundo and had been unable to find him. 

“Lord save us!” she exclaimed, as if she could see everything. “So much trouble teaching you 
good manners and you end up living like a pig.” 

Jose Arcadio Segundo was still reading over the parchments. The only thing visible in the 
intricate tangle of hair was the teeth striped with green dime and his motionless eyes. When he 
recognized his great-grandmother’s voice he turned his head toward the door, tried to smile, and 
without knowing it repeated an old phrase of Ursula’s. 



“What did you expect?” he murmured. “Time passes.” 

“That’s how it goes,” Ursula said, “but not so much.” 

When she said it she realized that she was giving the same reply that Colonel Aureliano Buendia 
had given in his death cell, and once again she shuddered with the evidence that time was not 
passing, as she had just admitted, but that it was turning in a circle. But even then she did not give 
resignation a chance. She scolded Jose Arcadio Segundo as if he were a child and insisted that he 
take a bath and shave and lend a hand in fixing up the house. The simple idea of abandoning the 
room that had given him peace terrified Jose Arcadio Segundo. He shouted that there was no 
human power capable of making him go out because he did not want to see the train with two 
hundred cars loaded with dead people which left Macondo every day at dusk on its way to the sea. 
“They were all of those who were at the station,” he shouted. “Three thousand four hundred eight.” 
Only then did Ursula realize that he was in a world of shadows more impenetrable than hers, as un¬ 
reachable and solitary as that of his great-grandfather. She left him in the room, but she succeeded in 
getting them to leave the padlock off, clean it every day, throw the chamberpots away except for 
one, and to keep Jose Arcadio Segundo as clean and presentable as Iris great-grandfather had been 
during his long captivity under the chestnut tree. At first Fernanda interpreted that bustle as an 
attack of senile madness and it was difficult for her to suppress her exasperation. But about that time 
Jose Arcadio told her that he planned to come to Macondo from Rome before taking his final vows, 
and the good news filled her with such enthusiasm that from morning to night she would be seen 
watering the flowers four times a day so that her son would not have a bad impression of the house. 
It was that same incentive which induced her to speed up her correspondence with the invisible 
doctors and to replace the pots of ferns and oregano and the begonias on the porch even before 
Ursula found out that they had been destroyed by Aureliano Segundo’s exterminating fury. Later on 
she sold the silver service and bought ceramic dishes, pewter bowls and soup spoons, and alpaca 
tablecloths, and with them brought poverty to the cupboards that had been accustomed to India 
Company chinaware and Bohemian crystal. Ursula always tried to go a step beyond. “Open the 
windows and the doors,” she shouted. “Cook some meat and fish, buy the largest turtles around, let 
strangers come and spread their mats in the corners and urinate in the rose bushes and sit down to 
eat as many times as they want and belch and rant and muddy everything with their boots, and let 
them do whatever they want to us, because that’s the only way to drive off rain.” But it was a vain 
illusion. She was too old then and living on borrowed time to repeat the miracle of the little candy 
animals, and none of her descendants had inherited her strength. The house stayed closed on 
Fernanda’s orders. 

Aureliano Segundo, who had taken his tmnks back to the house of Petra Cotes, barely had 
enough means to see that the family did not starve to death. With the raffling of the mule, Petra 
Cotes and he bought some more animals with which they managed to set up a primitive lottery 
business. Aureliano Segundo would go from house to house selling the tickets that he himself 
painted with colored ink to make them more attractive and convincing, and perhaps he did not 
realize that many people bought them out of gratitude and most of them out of pity. Nevertheless, 
even the most pitying purchaser was getting a chance to win a pig for twenty cents or a calf for 
thirty-two, and they became so hopeful that on Tuesday nights Petra Cotes’s courtyard overflowed 
with people waiting for the moment when a child picked at random drew the winning number from 
a bag. It did not take long to become a weekly fair, for at dusk food and drink stands would be set 
up in the courtyard and many of those who were favored would slaughter the animals they had won 
right there on the condition that someone else supply the liquor and music, so that without having 
wanted to, Aureliano Segundo suddenly found himself playing the accordion again and participating 
in modest tourneys of voracity. Those humble replicas of the revelry of former times served to show 
Aureliano Segundo himself how much his spirits had declined and to what a degree his skill as a 



masterful carouser had dried up. He was a changed man. The two hundred forty pounds that he had 
attained during the days when he had been challenged by The Elephant had been reduced to one 
hundred fifty-six; the glowing and bloated tortoise face had turned into that of an iguana, and he was 
always on the verge of boredom and fatigue. For Petra Cotes, however, he had never been a better 
man than at that time, perhaps because the pity that he inspired was mixed with love, and because of 
the feeling of solidarity that misery aroused in both of them. The broken-down bed ceased to be the 
scene of wild activities and was changed into an intimate refuge. Freed of the repetitious mirrors, 
which had been auctioned off to buy animals for the lottery, and from the lewd damasks and velvets, 
which the mule had eaten, they would stay up very late with the innocence of two sleepless 
grandparents, taking advantage of the time to draw up accounts and put away pennies which they 
formerly wasted just for the sake of it. Sometimes the cock’s crow would find them piling and 
unpiling coins, taking a bit away from here to put there, to that this bunch would be enough to keep 
Fernanda happy and that would be for Amaranta Ursula’s shoes, and that other one for Santa Sofia 
de la Piedad, who had not had a new dress since the time of all the noise, and this to order the coffin 
if Ursula died, and this for the coffee which was going up a cent a pound in price every three 
months, and this for the sugar which sweetened less every day, and this for the lumber which was 
still wet from the rains, and this other one for the paper and the colored ink to make tickets with, 
and what was left over to pay off the winner of the April calf whose hide they had miraculously 
saved when it came down with a symptomatic carbuncle just when all of the numbers in the raffle 
had already been sold. Those rites of poverty were so pure that they nearly always set aside the 
largest share for Fernanda, and they did not do so out of remorse or charity, but because her well¬ 
being was more important to them than their own. What was really happening to them, although 
neither of them realized it, was that they both thought of Fernanda as the daughter that they would 
have liked to have and never did, to the point where on a certain occasion they resigned themselves 
to eating crumbs for three days, so that she could buy a Dutch tablecloth. Nevertheless, no matter 
how much they killed themselves with work, no matter how much money they eked out, and no 
matter how many schemes they thought of, their guardian angels were asleep with fatigue while they 
put in coins and took them out trying to get just enough to live with. During the waking hours when 
the accounts were bad. they wondered what had happened in the world for the animals not to breed 
with the same drive as before, why money slipped through their fingers, and why people who a short 
time before had burned rolls of bills in the carousing considered it highway robbery to charge twelve 
cents for a raffle of six hens. Aureliano Segundo thought without saying so that the evil was not in 
the world but in some hidden place in the mysterious heart of Petra Cotes, where something had 
happened during the deluge that had turned the animals sterile and made money scarce. Intrigued by 
that enigma, he dug so deeply into her sentiments that in search of interest he found love, because 
by trying to make her love him he ended up falling in love with her. Petra Cotes, for her part, loved 
him more and more as she felt his love increasing, and that was how in the ripeness of autumn she 
began to believe once more in the youthful superstition that poverty was the servitude of love. Both 
looked back then on the wild revelry, the gaudy wealth, and the unbridled fornication as an 
annoyance and they lamented that it had cost them so much of their lives to fund the paradise of 
shared solitude. Madly in love after so many years of sterile complicity, they enjoyed the miracle of 
loving each other as much at the table as in bed, and they grew to be so happy that even when they 
were two worn-out old people they kept on blooming like little children and playing together like 

The raffles never got very far. At first Aureliano Segundo would spend three days of the week 
shut up in what had been Iris rancher’s office drawing ticket after ticket, Painting with a fair skill a 
red cow, a green pig, or a group of blue hens, according to the animal being raffled, and he would 
sketch out a good imitation of printed numbers and the name that Petra Cotes thought good to call 



the business: Divine Providence Raffles. But with time he felt so tired after drawing up to two thousand 
tickets a week that he had the animals, the name, and the numbers put on rubber stamps, and then 
the work was reduced to moistening them on pads of different colors. In his last years it occurred to 
him to substitute riddles for the numbers so that the prize could be shared by all of those who 
guessed it, but the system turned out to be so complicated and was open to so much suspicion that 
he gave it up after the second attempt. 

Aureliano Segundo was so busy trying to maintain the prestige of his raffles that he barely had 
time to see the children. Fernanda put Amaranta Ursula in a small private school where they 
admitted only six girls, but she refused to allow Aureliano to go to public school. She considered 
that she had already relented too much in letting him leave the room. Besides, the schools in those 
days accepted only the legitimate offspring of Catholic marriages and on the birth certificate that had 
been pinned to Aureliano’s clothing when they brought him to the house he was registered as a 
foundling. So he remained shut In at the mercy of Santa Sofia de la Piedad’s loving eyes and Ursula’s 
mental quirks, learning in the narrow world of the house whatever Iris grandmothers explained to 
him. He was delicate, thin, with a curiosity that unnerved the adults, but unlike the inquisitive and 
sometimes clairvoyant look that the colonel had at his age, his look was blinking and somewhat 
distracted. While Amaranta Ursula was in kindergarten, he would hunt earthworms and torture 
insects in the garden. But once when Fernanda caught him putting scorpions in a box to put in 
Ursula’s bed, she locked him up in Meme’s old room, where he spent his solitary hours looking 
through the pictures in the encyclopedia. Ursula found him there one afternoon when she was going 
about sprinkling the house with distilled water and a bunch of nettles, and in spite of the fact that 
she had been with him many times she asked him who he was. 

“I’m Aureliano Buendia,” he said. 

“That’s right” she replied. “And now it’s time for you to start learning how to be a silversmith.” 

She had confused him with her son again, because the hot wind that came after the deluge and 
had brought occasional waves of lucidity to Ursula’s brain had passed. She never got her reason 
back. When she went into the bedroom she found Petronila Iguaran there with the bothersome 
crinolines and the beaded jacket that she put on for formal visits, and she found Tranquilina Maria 
Miniata Alacoque Buendia, her grandmother, fanning herself with a peacock feather in her invalid’s 
rocking chair, and her great-grandfather Aureliano Arcadio Buendia, with his imitation dolman of 
the viceregal guard, and Aureliano Iguaran, her father, who had invented a prayer to make the 
worms shrivel up and drop off cows, and her timid mother, and her cousin with the pig’s tail, and 
Jose Arcadio Buendia, and her dead sons, all sitting in chairs lined up against the wall as if it were a 
wake and not a visit. She was tying a colorful string of chatter together, commenting on things from 
many separate places and many different times, so that when Amaranta Ursula returned from school 
and Aureliano grew tired of the encyclopedia, they would find her sitting on her bed, talking to 
herself and lost in a labyrinth of dead people. “Fire!” she shouted once in terror and for an instant 
panic spread through the house, but what she was telling about was the burning of a barn that she 
had witnessed when she was four years old. She finally mixed up the past with the present in such a 
way that in the two or three waves of lucidity that she had before she died, no one knew for certain 
whether she was speaking about what she felt or what she remembered. Little by little she was 
shrinking, turning into a fetus, becoming mummified in life to the point that in her last months she 
was a cherry raisin lost inside of her nightgown, and the arm that she always kept raised looked like 
the paw of a marimonda monkey. She was motionless for several days, and Santa Sofia de la Piedad 
had to shake her to convince herself that she was alive and sat her on her lap to feed her a few 
spoonfuls of sugar water. She looked like a newborn old woman. Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano 
would take her in and out of the bedroom, they would lay her on the altar to see if she was any 
larger than the Christ child, and one afternoon they hid her in a closet in the Pantry where the rats 



could have eaten her. One Palm Sunday they went into the bedroom while Fernanda was in church 
and carried Ursula out by the neck and ankles. 

“Poor great-great-grandmother,” Amaranta Ursula said. “She died of old age.” 

Ursula was startled. 

“Pm alive!” she said. 

“You can see.” Amaranta Ursula said, suppressing her laughter, “that she’s not even breathing.” 

“Pm talking!” Ursula shouted. 

“She can’t even talk,” Aureliano said. “She died like a little cricket.” 

Then Ursula gave in to the evidence. “My God,” she exclaimed in a low voice. “So this is what 
it’s like to be dead.” She started an endless, stumbling, deep prayer that lasted more than two days, 
and that by Tuesday had degenerated into a hodgepodge of requests to God and bits of practical 
advice to stop the red ants from bringing the house down, to keep the lamp burning by Remedios’ 
daguerreotype, and never to let any Buendia marry a person of the same blood because their 
children would be born with the tail of a pig. Aureliano Segundo tried to take advantage of her 
delirium to get her to ten him where the gold was buried, but his entreaties were useless once more 
“When the owner appears,” Ursula said, “God will illuminate him so that he will find it.” Santa Sofia 
de la Piedad had the certainty that they would find her dead from one moment to the next, because 
she noticed during those days a certain confusion in nature: the roses smelled like goosefoot, a pod 
of chick peas fell down and the beans lay on the ground in a perfect geometrical pattern in the shape 
of a starfish and one night she saw a row of luminous orange disks pass across the sky. 

They found her dead on the morning of Good Friday. The last time that they had helped her 
calculate her age, during the time of the banana company, she had estimated it as between one 
hundred fifteen and one hundred twenty-two. They buried her in a coffin that was not much larger 
than the basket in which Aureliano had arrived, and very few people were at the funeral, partly 
because there wet not many left who remembered her, and partly because it was so hot that noon 
that the birds in their confusion were running into walls like day pigeons and breaking through 
screens to die in the bedrooms. 

At first they thought it was a plague. Housewives were exhausted from sweeping away so many 
dead birds, especially at siesta time, and the men dumped them into the river by the cartload. On 
Easter Sunday the hundred-year-old Father Antonio Isabel stated from the pulpit that the death of 
the birds was due to the evil influence of the Wandering Jew, whom he himself had seen the night 
before. He described him as a cross between a billy goat and a female heretic, an infernal beast 
whose breath scorched the air and whose look brought on the birth of monsters in newlywed 
women. There were not many who paid attention to his apocalyptic talk, for the town was 
convinced that the priest was rambling because of his age. But one woman woke everybody up at 
dawn on Wednesday because she found the tracks of a biped with a cloven hoof. They were so clear 
and unmistakable that those who went to look at them had no doubt about the existence of a 
fearsome creature similar to the one described by the parish priest and they got together to set traps 
in their courtyards. That was how they managed to capture it. Two weeks after Ursula’s death, Petra 
Cotes and Aureliano Segundo woke up frightened by the especially loud bellowing of a calf that was 
coming from nearby. When they got there a group of men were already pulling the monster off the 
sharpened stakes they had set in the bottom of a pit covered with dry leaves, and it stopped lowing. 
It was as heavy as an ox in spite of the fact that it was no taller than a young steer, and a green and 
greasy liquid flowed from its wounds. Its body was covered with rough hair, plagued with small 
ticks, and the skin was hardened with the scales of a remora fish, but unlike the priest’s description, 
its human parts were more like those of a sickly angel than of a man, for its hands were tense and 
agile, its eyes large and gloomy, and on its shoulder blades it had the scarred-over and calloused 
stumps of powerful wings which must have been chopped off by a woodsman’s ax. They hung it to 



an almond tree in the square by its ankles so that everyone could see it, and when it began to rot 
they burned it in a bonfire, for they could not determine whether its bastard nature was that of an 
animal to be thrown into the river or a human being to be buried. It was never established whether 
it had really caused the death of the birds, but the newly married women did not bear the predicted 
monsters, nor did the intensity of the heat decrease. 

Rebeca died at the end of that year. Argenida, her lifelong servant, asked the authorities for help 
to knock down the door to the bedroom where her mistress had been locked in for three days, and 
they found her, on her solitary bed, curled up like a shrimp, with her head bald from ringworm and 
her finger in her mouth. Aureliano Segundo took charge of the funeral and tried to restore the house 
in order to sell it, but the destruction was so far advanced in it that the walls became scaly as soon as 
they were painted and there was not enough mortar to stop the weeds from cracking the floors and 
the ivy from rotting the beams. 

That was how everything went after the deluge. The indolence of the people was in contrast to 
the voracity of oblivion, which little by little was undermining memories in a pitiless way, to such an 
extreme that at that time, on another anniversary of the Treaty of Neerlandia, some emissaries from 
the president of the republic arrived in Macondo to award at last the decoration rejected several 
times by Colonel Aureliano Buendfa, and they spent a whole afternoon looking for someone who 
could tell them where they could find one of his descendants. Aureliano Segundo was tempted to 
accept it, thinking that it was a medal of solid gold, but Petra Cotes convinced him that it was not 
proper when the emissaries already had some proclamations and speeches ready for the ceremony. It 
was also around that time that the gypsies returned, the last heirs to Melqufades’ science, and they 
found the town so defeated and its inhabitants so removed from the rest of the world that once 
more they went through the houses dragging magnetized ingots as if that really were the Babylonian 
wise men’s latest discovery, and once again they concentrated the sun’s rays with the giant 
magnifying glass, and there was no lack of people standing open-mouthed watching kettles fall and 
pots roll and who paid fifty cents to be startled as a gypsy woman put in her false teeth and took 
them out again. A broken-down yellow train that neither brought anyone in nor took anyone out 
and that scarcely paused at the deserted station was the only thing that was left of the long train to 
which Mr. Brown would couple his glass-topped coach with the episcopal lounging chairs and of the 
fruit trains with one hundred twenty cars which took a whole afternoon to pass by. The ecclesiastical 
delegates who had come to investigate the report of the strange death of the birds and the sacrifice 
of the Wandering Jew found Father Antonio Isabel playing blind man’s buff with the children, and 
thinking that Inis report was the product of a hallucination, they took him off to an asylum. A short 
time later they sent Father Augusto Angel, a crusader of the new breed, intransigent, audacious, 
daring, who personally rang the bells several times a day so that the peoples spirits would not get 
drowsy, and who went from house to house waking up the sleepers to go to mass but before a year 
was out he too was conquered by the negligence that one breathed in with the air, by the hot dust 
that made everything old and clogged up, and by the drowsiness caused by lunchtime meatballs in 
the unbearable heat of siesta time. 

With Ursula’s death the house again fell into a neglect from which it could not be rescued even 
by a will as resolute and vigorous as that of Amaranta Ursula, who many years later, being a happy, 
modern woman without prejudices, with her feet on the ground, opened doors and windows in 
order to drive away the rain, restored the garden, exterminated the red ants who were already 
walking across the porch in broad daylight, and tried in vain to reawaken the forgotten spirit of 
hospitality. Fernanda’s cloistered passion built in impenetrable dike against Ursula’s torrential 
hundred years. Not only did she refuse to open doors when the arid wind passed through, but she 
had the windows nailed shut with boards in the shape of a cross, obeying the paternal order of being 
buried alive. The expensive correspondence with the invisible doctors ended in failure. After 



numerous postponements, she shut herself up in her room on the date and hour agreed upon, 
covered only by a white sheet and with her head pointed north, and at one o’clock in the morning 
she felt that they were covering her head with a handkerchief soaked in a glacial liquid. When she 
woke up the sun was shining in the window and she had a barbarous stitch in the shape of an arc 
that began at her crotch and ended at her sternum. But before she could complete the prescribed 
rest she received a disturbed letter from the invisible doctors, who mid they had inspected her for 
six hours without finding anything that corresponded to the symptoms so many times and so 
scrupulously described by her. Actually, her pernicious habit of not calling things by their names had 
brought about a new confusion, for the only thing that the telepathic surgeons had found was a drop 
in the uterus which could be corrected by the use of a pessary. The disillusioned Fernanda tried to 
obtain more precise information, but the unknown correspondents did not answer her letters any 
more. She felt so defeated by the weight of an unknown word that she decided to put shame behind 
her and ask what a pessary was, and only then did she discover that the French doctor had hanged 
himself to a beam three months earlier and had been buried against the wishes of the townspeople 
by a former companion in arms of Colonel Aureliano Buendia. Then she confided in her son Jose 
Arcadio and the latter sent her the pessaries from Rome along with a pamphlet explaining their use, 
which she flushed down the toilet after committing it to memory so that no one would learn the 
nature of her troubles. It was a useless precaution because the only people who lived in the house 
scarcely paid any attention to her. Santa Sofia de la Piedad was wandering about in her solitary old 
age, cooking the little that they ate and almost completely dedicated to the care of Jose Arcadio 
Segundo. Amaranta Ursula, who had inherited certain attractions of Remedios the Beauty, spent the 
time that she had formerly wasted tormenting Ursula at her schoolwork, and she began to show 
good judgment and a dedication to study that brought back to Aureliano Segundo the high hopes 
that Meme had inspired in him. He had promised her to send her to finish her studies in Bmssels, in 
accord with a custom established during the time of the banana company, and that illusion had 
brought him to attempt to revive the lands devastated by the deluge. The few times that he appeared 
at the house were for Amaranta Ursula, because with time he had become a stranger to Fernanda 
and little Aureliano was becoming withdrawn as he approached puberty. Aureliano Segundo had 
faith that Fernanda’s heart would soften with old age so that the child could join in the life of the 
town where no one certainly would make any effort to speculate suspiciously about his origins. But 
Aureliano himself seemed to prefer the cloister of solitude and he did not show the least desire to 
know the world that began at the street door of the house. When Ursula had the door of 
Melquiades’ room opened he began to linger about it, peeping through the half-opened door, and no 
one knew at what moment he became close to Jose Arcadio Segundo in a link of mutual affection. 
Aureliano Segundo discovered that friendship a long time after it had begun, when he heard the 
child talking about the killing at the station. It happened once when someone at the table 
complained about the ruin into which the town had sunk when the banana company had abandoned 
it, and Aureliano contradicted him with maturity and with the vision of a grown person. His point of 
view, contrary to the general interpretation, was that Macondo had been a prosperous place and well 
on its way until it was disordered and cormpted and suppressed by the banana company, whose 
engineers brought on the deluge as a pretext to avoid promises made to the workers. Speaking with 
such good sense that to Fernanda he was like a sacrilegious parody of Jews among the wise men, the 
child described with precise and convincing details how the army had macliine-gunned more than 
three thousand workers penned up by the station and how they loaded the bodies onto a two- 
hundred-car train and threw them into the sea. Convinced as most people were by the official 
version that nothing had happened, Fernanda was scandalized with the idea that the child had 
inherited the anarchist ideas of Colonel Aureliano Buendia and told him to be quiet. Aureliano 
Segundo, on the other hand, recognized his twin brother’s version. Actually, in spite of the fact that 



everyone considered him mad, Jose Arcadio Segundo was at that time the most lucid inhabitant of 
the house. He taught little Aureliano how to read and write, initiated him in the study of the 
parchments, and he inculcated him with such a personal interpretation of what the banana company 
had meant to Macondo that many years later, when Aureliano became part of the world, one would 
have thought that he was telling a hallucinated version, because it was radically opposed to the false 
one that historians had created and consecrated in the schoolbooks. In the small isolated room 
where the arid air never penetrated, nor the dust, nor the heat, both had the atavistic vision of an old 
man, his back to the window, wearing a hat with a brim like the wings of a crow who spoke about 
the world many years before they had been born. Both described at the same time how it was always 
March there and always Monday, and then they understood that Jose Arcadio Buendia was not as 
crazy as the family said, but that he was the only one who had enough lucidity to sense the tmth of 
the fact that time also stumbled and had accidents and could therefore splinter and leave an 
eternalized fragment in a room. Jose Arcadio Segundo had managed, furthermore, to classify the 
cryptic letters of the parchments. He was certain that they corresponded to an alphabet of forty- 
seven to fifty-three characters, which when separated looked like scratching and scribbling, and 
which in the fine hand of Melquiades looked like pieces of clothing put out to dry on a line. 
Aureliano remembered having seen a similar table in the English encyclopedia, so he brought it to 
the room to compare it with that of Jose Arcadio Segundo. They were indeed the same. 

Around the time of the riddle lottery, Aureliano Segundo began waking up with a knot in his 
throat, as if he were repressing a desire to weep. Petra Cotes interpreted it as one more of so many 
upsets brought on by the bad situation, and every morning for over a year she would touch his 
palate with a dash of honey and give him some radish syrup. When the knot in his throat became so 
oppressive that it was difficult for him to breathe, Aureliano Segundo visited Pilar Ternera to see if 
she knew of some herb that would give him relief. The dauntless grandmother, who had reached a 
hundred years of age managing a small, clandestine brothel, did not tmst therapeutic superstitions, 
so she turned the matter over to her cards. She saw the queen of diamonds with her throat wounded 
by the steel of the jack of spades, and she deduced that Fernanda was trying to get her husband back 
home by means of the discredited method of sticking pins into his picture but that she had brought 
on an internal tumor because of her clumsy knowledge of the black arts. Since Aureliano Segundo 
had no other pictures except those of his wedding and the copies were all in the family album, he 
kept searching all through the house when his wife was not looking, and finally, in the bottom of the 
dresser, he came across a half-dozen pessaries in their original boxes. Thinking that the small red 
rubber rings were objects of witchcraft he put them in his pocket so that Pilar Ternera could have a 
look at them. She could not determine their nature, but they looked so suspicious to her that in any 
case she burned them in a bonfire she built in the courtyard. In order to conjure away Fernanda’s 
alleged curse, she told Aureliano Segundo that he should soak a broody hen and bury her alive under 
the chestnut tree, and he did it with such good faith that when he finished hiding the turned-up 
earth with dried leaves he already felt that he was breathing better. For her part, Fernanda 
interpreted the disappearance as a reprisal by the invisible doctors and she sewed a pocket of casing 
to the inside of her camisole where she kept the new pessaries that her son sent her. 

Six months after he had buried the hen, Aureliano Segundo woke up at midnight with an attack 
of coughing and the feeling that he was being strangled within by the claws of a crab. It was then 
that he understood that for all of the magical pessaries that he destroyed and all the conjuring hens 
that he soaked, the single and sad piece of truth was that he was dying. He did not tell anyone. 
Tormented by the fear of dying without having sent Amaranta Ursula to Bmssels, he worked as he 
had never done, and instead of one he made three weekly raffles. From very early in the morning he 
could be seen going through the town, even in the most outlying and miserable sections, trying to 
sell tickets with an anxiety that could only be conceivable in a dying man. “Here’s Divine 



Providence,” he hawked. “Don’t let it get away, because it only comes every hundred years.” He 
made pitiful efforts to appear gay, pleasant, talkative, but it was enough to see his sweat and paleness 
to know that his heart was not in it. Sometimes he would go to vacant lots, where no one could see 
him, and sit down to rest from the claws that were tearing him apart inside. Even at midnight he 
would be in the red-light district trying to console with predictions of good luck the lonely women 
who were weeping beside their phonographs. “This number hasn’t come up in four months,” he 
told them, showing them the tickets. “Don’t let it get away, life is shorter than you think.” They 
finally lost respect for him, made fun of him, and in his last months they no longer called him Don 
Aureliano, as they had always done, but they called him Mr. Divine Providence right to his face. His 
voice was becoming filled with wrong notes. It was getting out of tune, and it finally diminished into 
the growl of a dog, but he still had the drive to see that there should be no diminishing of the hope 
people brought to Petra Cates’s courtyard. As he lost his voice, however, and realized that in a short 
time he would be unable to bear the pain, he began to understand that it was not through raffled 
pigs and goats that his daughter would get to Brussels, so he conceived the idea of organizing the 
fabulous raffle of the lands destroyed by the deluge, which could easily be restored by a person with 
the money to do so. It was such a spectacular undertaking that the mayor himself lent his aid by 
announcing it in a proclamation, and associations were formed to buy tickets at one hundred pesos 
apiece and they were sold out in less than a week. The night of the raffle the winners held a huge 
celebration, comparable only to those of the good days of the banana company, and Aureliano 
Segundo, for the last time, played the forgotten songs of Francisco the Man on the accordion, but 
he could no longer sing them. 

Two months later Amaranta Ursula went to Bmssels. Aureliano Segundo gave her not only the 
money from the special raffle, but also what he had managed to put aside over the previous months 
and what little he had received from the sale of the pianola, the clavichord, and other junk that had 
fallen into disrepair. According to his calculations, that sum would be enough for her studies, so 
that all that was la clang was the price of her fare back home. Fernanda was against the trip until the 
last moment, scandalized by the idea that Brussels was so close to Paris and its perdition, but she 
calmed down with the letter that Father Angel gave her addressed to a boardinghouse run by nuns 
for Catholic young ladies where Amaranta Ursula promised to stay until her studies were completed. 
Furthermore, the parish priest arranged for her to travel under the care of a group of Franciscan 
nuns who were going to Toledo, where they hoped to find dependable people to accompany her to 
Belgium. While the urgent correspondence that made the coordination possible went forward, 
Aureliano Segundo, aided by Petra Cates, prepared Amaranta Ursula’s baggage. The night on which 
they were packing one of Fernanda’s bridal trunks, the things were so well organized that the 
schoolgirl knew by heart which were the suits and cloth slippers she could wear crossing the Atlantic 
and the blue cloth coat with copper buttons and the cordovan shoes she would wear when she 
landed. She also knew how to walk so as not to fall into the water as she went up the gangplank, that 
at no time was she to leave the company of the nuns or leave her cabin except to eat, and that for no 
reason was she to answer the questions asked by people of any sex while they were at sea. She 
carried a small bottle with drops for seasickness and a notebook written by Father Angel in his own 
hand containing six prayers to be used against storms. Fernanda made her a canvas belt to keep her 
money in, and she would not have to take it off even to sleep. She tried to give her the chamberpot, 
washed out with lye and disinfected with alcohol, but Amaranta Ursula refused it for fear that her 
schoolmates would make fun of her. A few months later, at the hour of his death, Aureliano 
Segundo would remember her as he had seen her for the last time as she tried unsuccessfully to 
lower the window of the second-class coach to hear Fernanda’s last piece of advice. She was wearing 
a pink silk dress with a corsage of artificial pansies pinned to her left shoulder, her cordovan shoes 
with buckles and low heels, and sateen stockings held up at the thighs with elastic garters. Her body 



was slim, her hair loose and long, and she had the lively eyes that Ursula had had at her age and the 
way in which she said good-bye, without crying but without smiling either, revealed the same 
strength of character. Walking beside the coach as it picked up speed and holding Fernanda by the 
arm so that she would not stumble, Aureliano scarcely had time to wave at his daughter as she threw 
him a kiss with the tips of her fingers. The couple stood motionless under the scorching sun, 
looking at the train as it merged with the black strip of the horizon, linking arms for the first time 
since the day of their wedding. 

On the ninth of August, before they received the first letter from Brussels, Jose Arcadio Segundo 
was speaking to Aureliano in Melquiades’ room and, without realizing it, he said: 

“Always remember that they were more than three thousand and that they were thrown into the 

Then he fell back on the parchments and died with his eyes open. At that same instant, in 
Fernanda’s bed, his twin brother came to the end of the prolonged and terrible martyrdom of the 
steel crabs that were eating his throat away. One week previously he had returned home, without any 
voice, unable to breathe, and almost skin and bones, with his wandering trunks and his wastrel’s 
accordion, to fulfill the promise of dying beside his wife. Petra Cotes helped him pack his clothes 
and bade him farewell without shedding a tear, but she forgot to give him the patent leather shoes 
that he wanted to wear in his coffin. So when she heard that he had died, she dressed in black, 
wrapped the shoes up in a newspaper, and asked Fernanda for permission to see the body. Fernanda 
would not let her through the door. 

“Put yourself in my place,” Petra Cotes begged. “Imagine how much I must have loved him to 
put up with this humiliation.” 

“There is no humiliation that a concubine does not deserve,” Fernanda replied. “So wait until 
another one of your men dies and put the shoes on him.” 

In fulfillment of her promise, Santa Sofia de la Piedad cut the throat of Jose Arcadio Segundo’s 
corpse with a kitchen knife to be sure that they would not bury him alive. The bodies were placed in 
identical coffins, and then it could be seen that once more in death they had become as Identical as 
they had been until adolescence. Aureliano Segundo’s old carousing comrades laid on his casket a 
wreath that had a purple ribbon with the words: Cease, coivs, life is short. Fernanda was so indignant 
with such irreverence that she had the wreath thrown onto the trash heap. In the tumult of the last 
moment, the sad drunkards who carried them out of the house got the coffins mixed up and buried 
them in the wrong graves. 



Chapter 18 

AURELIANO DID NOT leave Melquiades’ room for a long time. He learned by heart the fantastic 
legends of the crumbling books, the synthesis of the studies of Hermann the Cripple, the notes on 
the science of demonology, the keys to the philosopher’s stone, the Centuries of Nostradamus and his 
research concerning the plague, so that he reached adolescence without knowing a tiling about his 
own time but with the basic knowledge of a medieval man. Any time that Santa Sofia de la Piedad 
would go into his room she would find him absorbed in his reading. At dawn she would bring him a 
mug of coffee without sugar and at noon a plate of rice and slices of fried plantain, which were the 
only things eaten in the house since the death of Aureliano Segundo. She saw that his hair was cut, 
picked off the nits, took in to his size the old clothing that she found in forgotten tmnks, and when 
his mustache began to appear the brought him Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s razor and the small 
gourd he had used as a shaving mug. None of the latter’s children had looked so much like him, not 
even Aureliano Jose, particularly in respect to the prominent cheekbones and the firm and rather 
pitiless line of the lips. As had happened to Ursula with Aureliano Segundo when the latter was 
studying in the room, Santa Sofia de la Piedad thought that Aureliano was talking to himself. 
Actually, he was talking to Melquiades. One burning noon, a short time after the death of the twins, 
against the light of the window he saw the gloomy old man with his crow’s-wing hat like the 
materialization of a memory that had been in his head since long before he was born. Aureliano had 
finished classifying the alphabet of the parchments, so that when Melquiades asked him if he had 
discovered the language in which they had been written he did not hesitate to answer. 

“Sanskrit,” he said. 

Melquiades revealed to him that his opportunities to return to the room were limited. But he 
would go in peace to the meadows of the ultimate death because Aureliano would have time to learn 
Sanskrit during the years remaining until the parchments became one hundred years old, when they 
could be deciphered. It was he who indicated to Aureliano that on the narrow street going down to 
the river, where dreams had been interpreted during the time of the banana company, a wise 
Catalonian had a bookstore where there was a Sanskrit primer, which would be eaten by the moths 
within six years if he did not hurry to buy it. For the first time in her long life Santa Sofia de la 
Piedad let a feeling show through, and it was a feeling of wonderment when Aureliano asked her to 
bring him the book that could be found between Jerusalem Delivered and Milton’s poems on the 
extreme right-hand side of the second shelf of the bookcases. Since she could not read, she memo¬ 
rized what he had said and got some money by selling one of the seventeen little gold fishes left in 
the workshop, the whereabouts of which, after being hidden the night the soldiers searched the 
house, was known only by her and Aureliano. 

Aureliano made progress in his studies of Sanskrit as Melquiades’ visits became less and less 
frequent and he was more distant, fading away in the radiant light of noon. The last time that 
Aureliano sensed him he was only an invisible presence who murmured: “I died of fever on the 
sands of Singapore.” The room then became vulnerable to dust, heat, termites, red ants, and moths, 
who would turn the wisdom of the parchments into sawdust. 

There was no shortage of food in the house. The day after the death of Aureliano Segundo, one 
of the friends who had brought the wreath with the irreverent inscription offered to pay Fernanda 
some money that he had owed her husband. After that every Wednesday a delivery boy brought a 
basket of food that was quite sufficient for a week. No one ever knew that those provisions were 
being sent by Petra Cotes with the idea that the continuing charity was a way of humiliating the 
person who had humiliated her. Nevertheless, the rancor disappeared much sooner than she herself 



had expected, and then she continued sending the food out of pride and finally out of compassion. 
Several times, when she had no animals to raffle off and people lost interest in the lottery, she went 
without food so that Fernanda could have something to eat, and she continued fulfilling the pledge 
to herself until she saw Fernanda’s funeral procession pass by. 

For Santa Sofia de la Piedad the reduction in the number of inhabitants of the house should have 
meant the rest she deserved after more than half a century of work. Never a lament had been heard 
from that stealthy, impenetrable woman who had sown in the family the angelic seed of Remedios 
the Beauty and the mysterious solemnity of Jose Arcadio Segundo; who dedicated a whole life of 
solitude and diligence to the rearing of children although she could barely remember whether they 
were her children or grandchildren, and who took care of Aureliano as if he had come out of her 
womb, not knowing herself that she was his great-grandmother. Only in a house like that was it 
conceivable for her always to sleep on a mat she laid out on the pantry floor in the midst of the 
nocturnal noise of the rats, and without telling anyone that one night she had awakened with the 
frightened feeling that someone was looking at her in the darkness and that it was a poisonous snake 
crawling over her stomach. She knew that if she had told Ursula, the latter would have made her 
sleep in her own bed, but those were times when no one was aware of anything unless it was 
shouted on the porch, because with the bustle of the bakery, the surprises of the war, the care of the 
children, there was not much room for thinking about other peoples happiness. Petra Cotes whom 
she had never seen, was the only one who remembered her. She saw to it that she had a good pair of 
shoes for street wear, that she always had clothing, even during the times when the raffles were 
working only through some miracle. When Fernanda arrived at the house she had good reason to 
think that she was an ageless servant, and even though she heard it said several times that she was 
her husband’s mother it was so incredible that it took her longer to discover it than to forget it. 
Santa Sofia de la Piedad never seemed bothered by that lowly position. On the contrary, one had the 
impression that she liked to stay in the corners, without a pause, without a complaint, keeping clean 
and in order the immense house that she had lived in ever since adolescence and that, especially 
during the time of the banana company, was more like a barracks than a home. But when Ursula 
died the superhuman diligence of Santa Sofia de la Piedad, her tremendous capacity for work, began 
to fall apart. It was not only that she was old and exhausted, but overnight the house had plunged 
into a crisis of senility. A soft moss grew up the walls. When there was no longer a bare spot in the 
courtyard, the weeds broke through the cement of the porch, breaking it like glass, and out of the 
cracks grew the same yellow flowers that Ursula had found in the glass with Melquiades’ false teeth a 
century before. With neither the time nor the resources to halt the challenge of nature, Santa Sofia 
de la Piedad spent the day in the bedrooms driving out the lizards who would return at night. One 
morning she saw that the red ants had left the undermined foundations, crossed the garden, climbed 
up the railing, where the begonias had taken on an earthen color, and had penetrated into the heart 
of the house. She first tried to kill them with a broom, then with insecticides, and finally with lye, but 
the next day they were back in the same place, still passing by, tenacious and invincible. Fernanda, 
writing letters to her children, was not aware of the unchecked destructive attack. Santa Sofia de la 
Piedad continued struggling alone, fighting the weeds to stop them from getting into the kitchen, 
pulling from the walls the tassels of spider webs which were rebuilt in a few hours, scraping off the 
termites. But when she saw that Melquiades’ room was also dusty and filled with cobwebs even 
though she swept and dusted three times a day, and that in spite of her furious cleaning it was 
threatened by the debris and the air of misery that had been foreseen only by Colonel Aureliano 
Buendia and the young officer, she realized that she was defeated. Then she put on her worn Sunday 
dress, some old shoes of Ursula’s, and a pair of cotton stockings that Amaranta Ursula had given 
her, and she made a bundle out of the two or three changes of clothing that she had left. 

“I give up,” she said to Aureliano. “This is too much house for my poor bones.” 



Aureliano asked her where she was going and she made a vague sign, as if she did not have the 
slightest idea of her destination. She tried to be more precise, however, saying that she was going to 
spend her last years with a first cousin who lived in Riohacha. It was not a likely explanation. Since 
the death of her parents she had not had contact with anyone in town or received letters or 
messages, nor had she been heard to speak of any relatives. Aureliano gave her fourteen little gold 
fishes because she was determined to leave with only what she had: one peso and twenty-five cents. 
From the window of the room he saw her cross the courtyard with her bundle of clothing, dragging 
her feet and bent over by her years, and he saw her reach her hand through an opening in the main 
door and replace the bar after she had gone out. Nothing was ever heard of her again. 

When she heard about the flight, Fernanda ranted for a whole day as she checked trunks, 
dressers, and closets, item by item, to make sure that Santa Sofia de la Piedad had not made off with 
anything. She burned her fingers trying to light a fire for the first time in her life and she had to ask 
Aureliano to do her the favor of showing her how to make coffee. Fernanda would find her 
breakfast ready when she arose and she would leave her room again only to get the meal that 
Aureliano had left covered on the embers for her, which she would carry to the table to eat on linen 
tablecloths and between candelabra, sitting at the solitary head of the table facing fifteen empty 
chairs. Even under those circumstances Aureliano and Fernanda did not share their solitude, but 
both continued living on their own, cleaning their respective rooms while the cobwebs fell like snow 
on the rose bushes, carpeted the beams, cushioned the walls. It was around that time that Fernanda 
got the impression that the house was filling up with elves. It was as if things, especially those for 
everyday use, had developed a faculty for changing location on their own. Fernanda would waste 
time looking for the shears that she was sure she had put on the bed and after turning everything 
upside down she would find them on a shelf in the kitchen, where she thought she had not been for 
four days. Suddenly there was no fork in the silver chest and she would find six on the altar and 
three in the washroom. That wandering about of things was even more exasperating when she sat 
down to write. The inkwell that she had placed at her right would be on the left, the blotter would 
be lost and she would find it two days later under her pillow, and the pages written to Jose Arcadio 
would get mixed up with those written to Amaranta Ursula, and she always had the feeling of 
mortification that she had put the letters in opposite envelopes, as in fact happened several times. 
On one occasion she lost her fountain pen. Two weeks later the mailman, who had found it in his 
bag, returned it. He had been going from house to house looking for its owner. At first she thought 
it was some business of the invisible doctors, like the disappearance of the pessaries, and she even 
started a letter to them begging them to leave her alone, but she had to interrupt it to do something 
and when she went back to her room she not only did not find the letter she had started but she had 
forgotten the reason for writing it. For a time she thought it was Aureliano. She began to spy on 
him, to put things in his path trying to catch him when he changed their location, but she was soon 
convinced that Aureliano never left Melquiades’ room except to go to the kitchen or the toilet, and 
that he was not a man to play tricks. So in the end she believed that it was the mischief of elves and 
she decided to secure everything in the place where she would use it. She tied the shears to the head 
of her bed with a long string. She tied the pen and the blotter to the leg of the table, and the glued 
the inkwell to the top of it to the right of the place where she normally wrote. The problems were 
not solved overnight, because a few hours after she had tied the string to the shears it was not long 
enough for her to cut with, as if the elves had shortened it. The same tiling happened to her with the 
string to the pen and even with her own arm which after a short time of writing could not reach the 
inkwell. Neither Amaranta Ursula in Brussels nor Jose Arcadio in Rome ever heard about those 
insignificant misfortunes. Fernanda told them that she was happy and in reality she was, precisely 
because she felt free from any compromise, as if life were pulling her once more toward the world 
of her parents, where one did not suffer with day-to-day problems because they were solved 



beforehand in one’s imagination. That endless correspondence made her lose her sense of time, 
especially after Santa Sofia de la Piedad had left. She had been accustomed to keep track of the days, 
months, and years, using as points of reference the dates set for the return of her children. But when 
they changed their plans time and time again, the dates became confused, the periods were mislaid, 
and one day seemed so much like another that one could not feel them pass. Instead of becoming 
impatient, she felt a deep pleasure in the delay. It did not worry her that many years after 
announcing the eve of his final vows, Jose Arcadio was still saying that he was waiting to finish his 
studies in advanced theology in order to undertake those in diplomacy, because she understood how 
steep and paved with obstacles was the spiral stairway that led to the throne of Saint Peter. On the 
other hand, her spirits rose with news that would have been insignificant for other people, such as 
the fact that her son had seen the Pope. She felt a similar pleasure when Amaranta Ursula wrote to 
tell her that her studies would last longer than the time foreseen because her excellent grades had 
earned her privileges that her father had not taken into account in his calculations. 

More than three years had passed since Santa Sofia de la Piedad had brought him the grammar 
when Aureliano succeeded in translating the first sheet. It was not a useless chore, but it was only a 
first step along a road whose length it was impossible to predict, because the text in Spanish did not 
mean anything: the lines were in code. Aureliano lacked the means to establish the keys that would 
permit him to dig them out, but since Melquiades had told him that the books he needed to get to 
the bottom of the parchments were in the wise Catalonian’s store, he decided to speak to Fernanda 
so that she would let him get them. In the room devoured by rubble, whose unchecked proliferation 
had finally defeated it, he thought about the best way to frame the request, but when he found 
Fernanda taking her meal from the embers, which was his only chance to speak to her, the 
laboriously formulated request stuck in his throat and he lost his voice. That was the only time that 
he watched her. He listened to her steps in the bedroom. He heard her on her way to the door to 
await the letters from her children and to give hers to the mailman, and he listened until late at night 
to the harsh, impassioned scratching of her pen on the paper before hearing the sound of the light 
switch and the murmur of her prayers in the darkness. Only then did he go to sleep, trusting that on 
the following day the awaited opportunity would come. He became so inspired with the idea that 
permission would be granted that one morning he cut his hair, which at that time reached down to 
his shoulders, shaved off his tangled beard, put on some tight-fitting pants and a shirt with an 
artificial collar that he had inherited from he did not know whom, and waited in the kitchen for 
Fernanda to get her breakfast. The woman of every day, the one with her head held high and with a 
stony gait, did not arrive, but an old woman of supernatural beauty with a yellowed ermine cape, a 
crown of gilded cardboard, and the languid look of a person who wept in secret. Actually, ever since 
she had found it in Aureliano Segundo’s trunks, Fernanda had put on the moth-eaten queen’s dress 
many times. Anyone who could have seen her in front of the mirror, in ecstasy over her own regal 
gestures, would have had reason to think that she was mad. But she was not. She had simply turned 
the royal regalia into a device for her memory. The first time that she put it on she could not help a 
knot from forming in her heart and her eyes filling with tears because at that moment she smelled 
once more the odor of shoe polish on the boots of the officer who came to get her at her house to 
make her a queen, and her soul brightened with the nostalgia of her lost dreams. She felt so old, so 
worn out, so far away from the best moments of her life that she even yearned for those that she 
remembered as the worst, and only then did she discover how much she missed the whiff of 
oregano on the porch and the smell of the roses at dusk, and even the bestial nature of the parvenus. 
Her heart of compressed ash, which had resisted the most telling blows of daily reality without 
strain, fell apart with the first waves of nostalgia. The need to feel sad was becoming a vice as the 
years eroded her. She became human in her solitude. Nevertheless, the morning on which she 
entered the kitchen and found a cup of coffee offered her by a pale and bony adolescent with a 



hallucinated glow in his eyes, the claws of ridicule tore at her. Not only did she refuse him 
permission, but from then on she carried the keys to the house in the pocket where she kept the 
unused pessaries. It was a useless precaution because if he had wanted to, Aureliano could have 
escaped and even returned to the house without being seen. But the prolonged captivity, the 
uncertainty of the world, the habit of obedience had dried up the seeds of rebellion in his heart. So 
that he went back to his enclosure, reading and rereading the parchments and listening until very late 
at night to Fernanda sobbing in her bedroom. One morning he went to light the fire as usual and on 
the extinguished ashes he found the food that he had left for her the day before. Then he looked 
into her bedroom and saw her lying on the bed covered with the ermine cape, more beautiful than 
ever and with her skin turned into an ivory casing. Four months later, when Jose Arcadio arrived, he 
found her intact. 

It was impossible to conceive of a man more like his mother. He was wearing a somber taffeta 
suit, a shirt with a round and hard collar, and a thin silk ribbon tied in a bow in place of a necktie. 
He was ruddy and languid with a startled look and weak lips. His black hair, shiny and smooth, 
parted in the middle of his head by a straight and tired line, had the same artificial appearance as the 
hair on the saints. The shadow of a well-uprooted beard on his paraffin face looked like a question 
of conscience. His hands were pale, with green veins and fingers that were like parasites, and he 
wore a solid gold ring with a round sunflower opal on his left index finger. When he opened the 
street door Aureliano did not have to be told who he was to realize that he came from far away. 
With his steps the house filled up with the fragrance of the toilet water that Ursula used to splash on 
him when he was a child in order to find him in the shadows, in some way impossible to ascertain, 
after so many years of absence. Jose Arcadio was still an autumnal child, terribly sad and solitary. He 
went directly to his mother’s bedroom, where Aureliano had boiled mercury for four months in his 
grandfather’s grandfather’s water pipe to conserve the body according to Melquiades’ formula. Jose 
Arcadio did not ask him any questions. He kissed the corpse on the forehead and withdrew from 
under her skirt the pocket of casing which contained three as yet unused pessaries and the key to her 
cabinet. He did everything with direct and decisive movements, in contrast to his languid look. From 
the cabinet he took a small damascene chest with the family crest and found on the inside, which 
was perfumed with sandalwood, the long letter in which Fernanda unburdened her heart of the 
numerous truths that she had hidden from him. He read it standing up, avidly but without anxiety, 
and at the third page he stopped and examined Aureliano with a look of second recognition. 

“So,” he said with a voice with a touch of razor in it, “You’re the bastard.” 

“I’m Aureliano Buendia.” 

“Go to your room,” Jose Arcadio said. 

Aureliano went and did not come out again even from curiosity when he heard the sound of the 
solitary funeral ceremonies. Sometimes, from the kitchen, he would see Jose Arcadio strolling 
through the house, smothered by his anxious breathing, and he continued hearing his steps in the 
ruined bedrooms after midnight. He did not hear his voice for many months, not only because Jose 
Arcadio never addressed him, but also because he had no desire for it to happen or time to think 
about anything else but the parchments. On Fernanda’s death he had taken out the next-to-the-last 
little fish and gone to the wise Catalonian’s bookstore in search of the books he needed. Nothing he 
saw along the way interested him, perhaps because he lacked any memories for comparison and the 
deserted streets and desolate houses were the same as he had imagined them at a time when he 
would have given his soul to know them. He had given himself the permission denied by Fernanda 
and only once and for the minimum time necessary, so without pausing he went along the eleven 
blocks that separated the house from the narrow street where dreams had been interpreted in other 
days and he went panting into the confused and gloomy place where there was barely room to 
move. More than a bookstore, it looked like a dump for used books, which were placed in disorder 



on the shelves chewed by termites, in the comers sticky with cobwebs, and even in the spaces that 
were supposed to serve as passageways. On a long table, also heaped with old books and papers, the 
proprietor was writing tireless prose in purple letters, somewhat outlandish, and on the loose pages 
of a school notebook. He had a handsome head of silver hair which fell down over his forehead like 
the plume of a cockatoo, and his blue eyes, lively and close-set, revealed the gentleness of a man 
who had read all of the books. He was wearing short pants and soaking in perspiration, and he did 
not stop his writing to see who had come in. Aureliano had no difficulty in rescuing the five books 
that he was looking for from that fabulous disorder, because they were exactly where Melquiades 
had told him they would be. Without saying a word he handed them, along with the little gold fish, 
to the wise Catalonian and the latter examined them, his eyelids contracting like two clams. “You 
must be mad,” he said in his own language, shmgging his shoulders, and he handed back to 
Aureliano the five books and the little fish. 

“You can have them” he said in Spanish. “The last man who read these books must have been 
Isaac the Blindman, so consider well what you’re doing.” 

Jose Arcadio restored Meme’s bedroom and had the velvet curtains cleaned and mended along 
with the damask on the canopy of the viceregal bed, and he put to use once more the abandoned 
bathroom where the cement pool was blackened by a fibrous and rough coating. He restricted his 
vest-pocket empire of worn, exotic clothing, false perfumes, and cheap jewelry to those places. The 
only thing that seemed to wort}? him in the rest of the house were the saints on the family altar, 
which he burned down to ashes one afternoon in a bonfire he lighted in the courtyard. He would 
sleep until past eleven o’clock. He would go to the bathroom in a shabby robe with golden dragons 
on it and a pair of slippers with yellow tassels, and there he would officiate at a rite which for its care 
and length recalled Remedios the Beauty. Before bathing he would perfume the pool with the salts 
that he carried in three alabaster flacons. He did not bathe himself with the gourd but would plunge 
into the fragrant waters and remain there for two hours floating on his back, lulled by the coolness 
and by the memory of Amaranta. A few days after arriving he put aside his taffeta suit, which in 
addition to being too hot for the town was the only one that he had, and he exchanged it for some 
tight-fitting pants very similar to those worn by Pietro Crespi during his dance lessons and a silk 
shirt woven with thread from living caterpillars and with Inis initials embroidered over the heart. 
Twice a week he would wash the complete change in the tub and would wear his robe until it dried 
because he had nothing else to put on. He never ate at home. He would go out when the heat of 
siesta time had eased and would not return until well into the night. Then he would continue his 
anxious pacing, breathing like a cat and thinking about Amaranta. She and the frightful look of the 
saints in the glow of the nocturnal lamp were the two memories he retained of the house. Many 
times during the hallucinating Roman August he had opened his eyes in the middle of his sleep and 
had seen Amaranta rising out of a marble-edged pool with her lace petticoats and the bandage on 
her hand, idealized by the anxiety of exile. Unlike Aureliano Jose who tried to drown that image in 
the bloody bog of war, he tried to keep it alive in the sink of concupiscence while he entertained his 
mother with the endless fable of his pontifical vocation. It never occurred either to him or to 
Fernanda to think that their correspondence was an exchange of fantasies. Jose Arcadio, who left 
the seminary as soon as he reached Rome, continued nourishing the legend of theology and canon 
law so as not to jeopardize the fabulous inheritance of which his mother’s delirious letters spoke and 
which would rescue him from the misery and sordidness he shared with two friends in a Trastevere 
garret. When he received Fernanda’s last letter, dictated by the foreboding of imminent death, he put 
the leftovers of his false splendor into a suitcase and crossed the ocean in the hold of a ship where 
immigrants were crammed together like cattle in a slaughterhouse, eating cold macaroni and wormy 
cheese. Before he read Fernanda’s will, which was nothing but a detailed and tardy recapitulation of 
her misfortunes, the broken-down furniture and the weeds on the porch had indicated that he had 



fallen into a trap from which he would never escape, exiled forever from the diamond light and 
timeless air of the Roman spring. During the cmshing insomnia brought on by his asthma he would 
measure and remeasure the depth of his misfortune as he went through the shadowy house where 
the senile fussing of Ursula had instilled a fear of the world in him. In order to be sure that she 
would not lose him in the shadows, she had assigned him a corner of the bedroom, the only one 
where he would be safe from the dead people who wandered through the house after sundown. “If 
you do anything bad,” Ursula would tell him, “the saints will let me know.” The terror-filled nights 
of his childhood were reduced to that corner where he would remain motionless until it was time to 
go to bed, perspiring with fear on a stool under the watchful and glacial eyes of the tattletale saints. 
It was useless torture because even at that time he already had a terror of everything around him and 
he was prepared to be frightened at anything he met in life: women on the street, who would ruin 
his blood; the women in the house, who bore children with the tail of a pig; fighting cocks, who 
brought on the death of men and remorse for the rest of one’s life; firearms, which with the mere 
touch would bring down twenty years of war; uncertain ventures, which led only to disillusionment 
and madness—everything, in short, everything that God had created in His infinite goodness and 
that the devil had perverted. When he awakened, pressed in the vise of his nightmares, the light in 
the window and the caresses of Amaranta in the bath and the pleasure of being powdered between 
the legs with a silk puff would release him from the terror. Even Ursula was different under the 
radiant light in the garden because there she did not talk about fearful things but would bmsh his 
teeth with charcoal powder so that he would have the radiant smile of a Pope, and she would cut 
and polish Inis nails so that the pilgrims who came to Rome from all over the world would be 
startled at the beauty of the Pope’s hands as he blessed them, and she would comb his hair like that 
of a Pope, and she would sprinkle his body and his clothing with toilet water so that his body and 
his clothes would have the fragrance of a Pope. In the courtyard of Castel Gandolfo he had seen the 
Pope on a balcony making the same speech in seven languages for a crowd of pilgrims and the only 
thing, indeed, that had drawn his attention was the whiteness of his hands, which seemed to have 
been soaked in lye, the dazzling shine of his summer clothing, and the hidden breath of cologne. 

Almost a year after his return home, having sold the silver candlesticks and the heraldic 
chamberpot—which at the moment of truth turned out to have only a little gold plating on the 
crest—in order to eat, the only distraction of Jose Arcadio was to pick up children in town so that 
they could play in the house. He would appear with them at siesta time and have them skip rope in 
the garden, sing on the porch, and do acrobatics on the furniture in the living room while he would 
go among the groups giving lessons in good manners. At that time he had finished with the tight 
pants and the silk shirts and was wearing an ordinary suit of clothing that he had bought in the Arab 
stores, but he still maintained his languid dignity and his papal air. The children took over the house 
just as Meme’s schoolmates had done in the past. Until well into the night they could be heard 
chattering and singing and tap-dancing, so that the house resembled a boarding school where there 
was no discipline. Aureliano did not worry about the invasion as long as they did not bother him in 
Melquiades’ room. One morning two children pushed open the door and were startled at the sight 
of a filthy and hairy man who was still deciphering the parchments on the worktable. They did not 
dare go in, but they kept on watching the room. They would peep in through the cracks, whispering, 
they threw live animals in through the transom, and on one occasion they nailed up the door and the 
window and it took Aureliano half a day to force them open. Amused at their unpunished mischief, 
four of the children went into the room one morning while Aureliano was in the kitchen, preparing 
to destroy the parchments. But as soon as they laid hands on the yellowed sheets an angelic force 
lifted them off the ground and held them suspended in the air until Aureliano returned and took the 
parchments away from them. From then on they did not bother him. 



The four oldest children, who wore short pants in spite of the fact that they were on the 
threshold of adolescence, busied themselves with Jose Arcadio’s personal appearance. They would 
arrive earlier than the others and spend the morning shaving him, giving him massages with hot 
towels, cutting and polishing the nails on his hands and feet, and perfuming him with toilet water. 
On several occasions they would get into the pool to soap him from head to toe as he floated on his 
back thinking about Amaranta. Then they would dry him, powder his body, and dress him. One of 
the children, who had curly blond hair and eyes of pink glass like a rabbit, was accustomed to 
sleeping in the house. The bonds that linked him to Jose Arcadio were so strong that he would 
accompany him in his asthmatic insomnia, without speaking, strolling through the house with him in 
the darkness. One night in the room where Ursula had slept they saw a yellow glow coming through 
the crumbling cement as if an underground sun had changed the floor of the room into a pane of 
glass. They did not have to turn on the light. It was sufficient to lift the broken slabs in the corner 
where Ursula’s bed had always stood and where the glow was most intense to find the secret crypt 
that Aureliano Segundo had worn himself out searching for during the delirium of Inis excavations. 
There were the three canvas sacks closed with copper wire, and inside of them the seven thousand 
two hundred fourteen pieces of eight, which continued glowing like embers in the darkness. 

The discovery of the treasure was like a deflagration. Instead of returning to Rome with the 
sudden fortune, which had been Inis dream maturing in misery, Jose Arcadio converted the house 
into a decadent paradise. He replaced the curtains and the canopy of the bed with new velvet, and he 
had the bathroom floor covered with paving stones and the walls with tiles. The cupboard in the 
dining room was filled with fruit preserves, hams, and pickles, and the unused pantry was opened 
again for the storage of wines and liqueurs which Jose Arcadio himself brought from the railroad 
station in crates marked with his name. One night he and the four oldest children had a party' that 
lasted until dawn. At six in the morning they came out naked from the bedroom, drained the pool, 
and filled it with champagne. They jumped in en masse, swimming like birds flying through a sky 
gilded with fragrant bubbles, while Jose Arcadio, floated on his back on the edge of the festivities, 
remembering Amaranta with his eyes open. He remained that way, wrapped up in himself, thinking 
about the bitterness of his equivocal pleasures until after the children had become tired and gone in 
a troop to the bedroom, where they tore down the curtains to dry' themselves, and in the disorder 
they broke the rock crystal mirror into four pieces and destroyed the canopy of the bed in the tumult 
of lying down. When Jose Arcadio came back from the bathroom, he found them sleeping in a 
naked heap in the shipwrecked bedroom. Inflamed, not so much because of the damage as because 
of the disgust and pity that he felt for himself in the emptiness of the saturnalia, he armed himself 
with an ecclesiastical cat-o-nine-tails that he kept in the bottom of his tmnk along with a hair-shirt 
and other instmments of mortification and penance, and drove the children out of the house, 
howling like a madman and whipping them without mercy as a person would not even have done to 
a pack of coyotes. He was done in, with an attack of asthma that lasted for several days and that 
gave him the look of a man on his deathbed. On the third night of torture, overcome by 
asphyxiation, he went to Aureliano’s room to ask him the favor of buying some powders to inhale at 
a nearby dmgstore. So it was that Aureliano, went out for a second time. He had to go only two 
blocks to reach the small pharmacy with dusty windows and ceramic bottles with labels in Latin 
where a girl with the stealthy beauty of a serpent of the Nile gave him the medicine the name of 
which Jose Arcadio had written down on a piece of paper. The second view of the deserted town, 
barely illuminated by the yellowish bulbs of the street lights, did not awaken in Aureliano any more 
curiosity than the first. Jose Arcadio, had come to think that he had mn away, when he reappeared, 
panting a little because of his haste, dragging legs that enclosure and lack of mobility had made weak 
and heavy. His indifference toward the world was so certain that a few days later Jose Arcadio 
violated the promise he had made to his mother and left him free to go out whenever he wanted to. 



“I have nothing to do outside,” Aureliano answered him. 

He remained shut up, absorbed in the parchments, which he was slowly unraveling and whose 
meaning, nevertheless, he was unable to interpret. Jose Arcadio would bring slices of ham to him in 
his room, sugared flowers which left a spring-like aftertaste in his mouth, and on two occasions a 
glass of fine wine. He was not interested in the parchments, which he thought of more as an esoteric 
pastime, but his attention was attracted by the rare wisdom and the inexplicable knowledge of the 
world that his desolate kinsman had. He discovered then that he could understand written English 
and that between parchments he had gone from the first page to the last of the six volumes of the 
encyclopedia as if it were a novel. At first he attributed to that the fact that Aureliano could speak 
about Rome as if he had lived there many years, but he soon became aware that he knew things that 
were not in the encyclopedia, such as the price of items. “Everything is known,” was the only reply 
he received from Aureliano when he asked him where he had got that information from. Aureliano, 
for his part, was surprised that Jose Arcadio when seen from close by was so different from the 
image that he had formed of him when he saw him wandering through the house. He was capable of 
laughing, of allowing himself from time to time a feeling of nostalgia for the past of the house, and 
of showing concern for the state of misery present in Melquiades’ room. That drawing closer 
together of two solitary people of the same blood was far from friendship, but it did allow them 
both to bear up better under the unfathomable solitude that separated and united them at the same 
time. Jose Arcadio could then turn to Aureliano to untangle certain domestic problems that 
exasperated him. Aureliano, in turn, could sit and read on the porch, waiting for the letters from 
Amaranta Ursula, which still arrived with the usual punctuality, and could use the bathroom, from 
which Jose Arcadio had banished him when he arrived. 

One hot dawn they both woke up in alarm at an urgent knocking on the street door. It was a dark 
old man with large green eyes that gave his face a ghostly phosphorescence and with a cross of ashes 
on his forehead. His clothing in tatters, his shoes cracked, the old knapsack on his shoulder his only 
luggage, he looked like a beggar, but his bearing had a dignity that was in frank contradiction to his 
appearance. It was only necessary to look at him once, even in the shadows of the parlor, to realize 
that the secret strength that allowed him to live was not the instinct of self-preservation but the 
habit of fear. It was Aureliano Amador, the only survivor of Colonel Aureliano Buendia’s seventeen 
sons, searching for a respite in his long and hazardous existence as a fugitive. He identified himself, 
begged them to give him refuge in that house which during his nights as a pariah he had 
remembered as the last redoubt of safety left for him in life. But Jose Arcadio and Aureliano did not 
remember him. Thinking that he was a tramp, they pushed him into the street. They both saw from 
the doorway the end of a drama that had began before Jose Arcadio had reached the age of reason. 
Two policemen who had been chasing Aureliano Amador for years, who had tracked him like 
bloodhounds across half the world, came out from among the almond trees on the opposite 
sidewalk and took two shots with their Mausers which neatly penetrated the cross of ashes. 

Ever since he had expelled the children from the house, Jose Arcadio was really waiting for news 
of an ocean liner that would leave for Naples before Christmas. He had told Aureliano and had even 
made plans to set him up in a business that would bring him a living, because the baskets of food 
had stopped coming since Fernanda’s burial. But that last dream would not be fulfilled either. One 
September morning, after having coffee in the kitchen with Aureliano, Jose Arcadio was finishing 
Inis daily bath when through the openings in the tiles the four children he had expelled from the 
house burst in. Without giving him time to defend himself, they jumped into the pool fully clothed, 
grabbed him by the hair, and held his head under the water until the bubbling of his death throes 
ceased on the surface and Inis silent and pale dolphin body dipped down to the bottom of the 
fragrant water. Then they took out the three sacks of gold from the hiding place which was known 
only to them and their victim. It was such a rapid, methodical, and brutal action that it was like a 



military operation. Aureliano, shut up in his room, was not aware of anything. That afternoon, hav¬ 
ing missed him in the kitchen, he looked for Jose Arcadio all over the house and found him floating 
on the perfumed mirror of the pool, enormous and bloated and still thinking about Amaranta. Only 
then did he understand how much he had began to love him. 



Chapter 19 

AMARANTA URSULA returned with the angels of December, driven on a sailor’s breeze, leading her 
husband by a silk rope tied around his neck. She appeared without warning, wearing an ivory- 
colored dress, a string of pearls that reached almost to her knees, emerald and topaz rings, and with 
her straight hair in a smooth bun held behind her ears by swallow-tail brooches. The man whom she 
had married six months before was a thin, older Fleming with the look of a sailor about him. She 
had only to push open the door to the parlor to realize that her absence had been longer and more 
destructive than she had imagined. 

“Good Lord,” she shouted, more gay than alarmed, “it’s obvious that there’s no woman in this 

The baggage would not fit on the porch. Besides Fernanda’s old tmnk, which they had sent her 
off to school with, she had two upright tmnks, four large suitcases, a bag for her parasols, eight 
hatboxes, a gigantic cage with half a hundred canaries, and her husband’s velocipede, broken down 
in a special case which allowed him to carry it like a cello. She did not even take a day of rest after 
the long trip. She put on some worn denim overalls that her husband had brought along with other 
automotive items and set about on a new restoration of the house. She scattered the red ants, who 
had already taken possession of the porch, brought the rose bushes back to life, uprooted the weeds, 
and planted ferns, oregano, and begonias again in the pots along the railing. She took charge of a 
crew of carpenters, locksmiths, and masons, who filled in the cracks in the floor, put doors and 
windows back on their hinges, repaired the furniture, and white-washed the walls inside and out, so 
that three months after her arrival one breathed once more the atmosphere of youth and festivity 
that had existed during the days of the pianola. No one in the house had ever been in a better mood 
at all hours and under any circumstances, nor had anyone ever been readier to sing and dance and 
toss all items and customs from the past into the trash. With a sweep of her broom she did away 
with the funeral mementos and piles of useless trash and articles of superstition that had been piling 
up in the corners, and the only thing she spared, out of gratitude to Ursula, was the daguerreotype of 
Remedios in the parlor. “My, such luxury,” she would shout, dying with laughter. “A fourteen-year- 
old grandmother!” When one of the masons told her that the house was full of apparitions and that 
the only way to drive them out was to look for the treasures they had left buried, she replied amid 
loud laughter that she did not think it was right for men to be superstitious. She was so spontaneous, 
so emancipated, with such a free and modern spirit, that Aureliano did not know what to do with his 
body when he saw her arrive. “My, my!” she shouted happily with open arms. “Look at how my 
darling cannibal has grown!” Before he had a chance to react she had already put a record on the 
portable phonograph she had brought with her and was trying to teach him the latest dance steps. 
She made him change the dirty pants that he had inherited from Colonel Aureliano Buendfa and 
gave him some youthful shirts and two-toned shoes, and she would push him into the street when 
he was spending too much time in Melquiades’ room. 

Active, small, and indomitable like Ursula, and almost as pretty and provocative as Remedios the 
Beauty, she was endowed with a rare instinct for anticipating fashion. When she received pictures of 
the most recent fashions in the mail, they only proved that she had not been wrong about the 
models that she designed herself and sewed on Amaranta’s primitive pedal machine. She subscribed 
to every fashion magazine, art publication, and popular music review published in Europe, and she 
had only to glance at them to realize that things in the world were going just as she imagined they 
were. It was incomprehensible why a woman with that spirit would have returned to a dead town 
burdened by dust and heat, and much less with a husband who had more than enough money to live 



anywhere in the world and who loved her so much that he let himself be led around by her on a silk 
leash. As time passed, however, her intention to stay was more obvious, because she did not make 
any plans that were not a long way off, nor did she do anything that did not have as an aim the 
search for a comfortable life and a peaceful old age in Macondo. The canary cage showed that those 
aims were made up on the spur of the moment. Remembering that her mother had told her in a 
letter about the extermination of the birds, she had delayed her trip several months until she found a 
ship that stopped at the Fortunate Isles and there she chose the finest twenty-five pairs of canaries 
so that she could repopulate the skies of Macondo. That was the most lamentable of her numerous 
frustrated undertakings. As the birds reproduced Amaranta Ursula would release them in pairs, and 
no sooner did they feel themselves free than they fled the town. She tried in vain to awaken love in 
them by means of the bird cage that Ursula had built during the first reconstruction of the house. 
Also in vain were the artificial nests built of esparto grass in the almond trees and the birdseed 
strewn about the roofs, and arousing the captives so that their songs would dissuade the deserters, 
because they would take flights on their first attempts and make a turn in the sky, just the time 
needed to find the direction to the Fortunate Isles. 

A year after her return, although she had not succeeded in making any friends or giving any 
parties, Amaranta Ursula still believed that it was possible to rescue the community which had been 
singled out by misfortune. Gaston, her husband, took care not to antagonize her, although since that 
fatal noon when he got off the train he realized that his wife’s determination had been provoked by 
a nostalgic mirage. Certain that she would be defeated by the realities, he did not even take the 
trouble to put his velocipede together, but he set about hunting for the largest eggs among the 
spider webs that the masons had knocked down, and he would open them with his fingernails and 
spend hours looking through a magnifying glass at the tiny spiders that emerged. Later on, thinking 
that Amaranta Ursula was continuing with her repairs so that her hands would not be idle, he 
decided to assemble the handsome bicycle, on which the front wheel was much larger than the rear 
one, and he dedicated himself to the capture and curing of every native insect he could find in the 
region, which he sent in jam jars to his former professor of natural history at the University of Liege 
where he had done advanced work in entomology, although his main vocation was that of aviator. 
When he rode the bicycle he would wear acrobat’s tights, gaudy socks, and a Sherlock Holmes cap, 
but when he was on foot he would dress in a spotless natural linen suit, white shoes, a silk bow tie, a 
straw boater, and he would carry a willow stick in his hand. His pale eyes accentuated his look of a 
sailor and his small mustache looked like the fur of a squirrel. Although he was at least fifteen years 
older than his wife, his alert determination to make her happy and his qualities as a good lover 
compensated for the difference. Actually, those who saw that man in his forties with careful habits, 
with the leash around his neck and his circus bicycle, would not have thought that he had made a 
pact of unbridled love with his wife and that they both gave in to the reciprocal drive in the least 
adequate of places and wherever the spirit moved them, as they had done since they had began to 
keep company, and with a passion that the passage of time and the more and more unusual 
circumstances deepened and enriched. Gaston was not only a fierce lover, with endless wisdom and 
imagination, but he was also, perhaps, the first man in the history of the species who had made an 
emergency landing and had come close to killing himself and his sweetheart simply to make love in a 
field of violets. 

They had met two years before they were married, when the sports biplane in which he was 
making rolls over the school where Amaranta Ursula was studying made an intrepid maneuver to 
avoid the flagpole and the primitive framework of canvas and aluminum foil was caught by the tail 
on some electric wires. From then on, paying no attention to his leg in splints, on weekends he 
would pick up Amaranta Ursula at the nun’s boardinghouse where she lived, where the rules were 
not as severe as Fernanda had wanted, and he would take her to his country club. They began to 



love each other at an altitude of fifteen hundred feet in the Sunday air of the moors, and they felt all 
the closer together as the beings on earth grew more and more minute. She spoke to him of 
Macondo as the brightest and most peaceful town on earth, and of an enormous house, scented 
with oregano, where she wanted to live until old age with a loyal husband and two strong sons who 
would be named Rodrigo and Gonzalo, never Aureliano and Jose Arcadio, and a daughter who 
would be named Virginia and never Remedios. She had evoked the town idealized by nostalgia with 
such strong tenacity that Gaston understood that she would not get married unless he took her to 
live in Macondo. He agreed to it, as he agreed later on to the leash, because he thought it was a 
passing fancy that could be overcome in time. But when two years in Macondo had passed and 
Amaranta Ursula was as happy as on the first day, he began to show signs of alarm. By that time he 
had dissected every dissectible insect in the region, he spoke Spanish like a native, and he had solved 
all of the crossword puzzles in the magazines that he received in the mail. He did not have the 
pretext of climate to hasten their return because nature had endowed him with a colonial liver which 
resisted the drowsiness of siesta time and water that had vinegar worms in it. He liked the native 
cooking so much that once he ate eighty-two iguana eggs at one sitting. Amaranta Ursula, on the 
other hand, had brought in by train fish and shellfish in boxes of ice, canned meats and preserved 
fruits, which were the only things she could eat, and she still dressed in European style and received 
designs by mail in spite of the fact that she had no place to go and no one to visit and by that time 
her husband was not in a mood to appreciate her short skirts, her tilted felt hat, and her seven-strand 
necklaces. Her secret seemed to lie in the fact that she always found a way to keep busy, resolving 
domestic problems that she herself had created, and doing a poor job on a thousand things which 
she would fix on the following day with a pernicious diligence that made one think of Fernanda and 
the hereditary vice of making something just to unmake it. Her festive genius was still so alive then 
that when she received new records she would invite Gaston to stay in the parlor until very late to 
practice the dance steps that her schoolmates described to her in sketches and they would generally 
end up making love on the Viennese rocking chairs or on the bare floor. The only thing that she 
needed to be completely happy was the birth of her children, but she respected the pact she had 
made with her husband not to have any until they had been married for five years. 

Looking for something to fill his idle hours with, Gaston became accustomed to spending the 
morning in Melqufades’ room with the shy Aureliano. He took pleasure in recalling with him the 
most hidden corners of his country, which Aureliano knew as if he had spent much time there. 
When Gaston asked him what he had done to obtain knowledge that was not in the encyclopedia, 
he received the same answer as Jose Arcadio: “Everything Is known.” In addition to Sanskrit he had 
learned English and French and a little Latin and Greek. Since he went out every afternoon at that 
time and Amaranta Ursula had set aside a weekly sum for him for his personal expenses, his room 
looked like a branch of the wise Catalonian’s bookstore. He read avidly until late at night, although 
from the manner in which he referred to his reading, Gaston thought that he did not buy the books 
in order to learn but to verify the tmth of his knowledge, and that none of them interested him 
more than the parchments, to which he dedicated most of his time in the morning. Both Gaston and 
his wife would have liked to incorporate him into the family life, but Aureliano was a hermetic man 
with a cloud of mystery that time was making denser. It was such an unfathomable condition that 
Gaston failed in his efforts to become intimate with him and had to seek other pastimes for his idle 
hours. It was around that time that he conceived the idea of establishing an airmail service. 

It was not a new project. Actually, he had it fairly well advanced when he met Amaranta Ursula, 
except that it was not for Macondo, but for the Belgian Congo, where his family had investments in 
palm oil. The marriage and the decision to spend a few months in Macondo to please his wife had 
obliged him to postpone it. But when he saw that Amaranta Ursula was determined to organize a 
commission for public improvement and even laughed at him when he hinted at the possibility of 



returning, he understood that things were going to take a long time and he reestablished contact 
with his forgotten partners in Brussels, thinking that it was just as well to be a pioneer in the 
Caribbean as in Africa. While his steps were progressing he prepared a landing field in the old 
enchanted region which at that time looked like a plain of crushed flintstone, and he studied the 
wind direction, the geography of the coastal region, and the best routes for aerial navigation, without 
knowing that his diligence, so similar to that of Mr. Herbert, was filling the town with the dangerous 
suspicion that his plan was not to set up routes but to plant banana trees. Enthusiastic over the idea 
that, after all, might justify his permanent establishment in Macondo, he took several trips to the 
capital of the province, met with authorities, obtained licenses, and drew up contracts for exclusive 
rights. In the meantime he maintained a correspondence with his partners in Brussels which 
resembled that of Fernanda with the invisible doctors, and he finally convinced them to ship the 
first airplane under the care of an expert mechanic, who would assemble it in the nearest port and 
fly it to Macondo. One year after his first meditations and meteorological calculations, trusting in the 
repeated promises of his correspondents, he had acquired the habit of strolling through the streets, 
looking at the sky, hanging onto the sound of the breeze in hopes that the airplane would appear. 

Although she had not noticed it, the return of Amaranta Ursula had brought on a radical change 
in Aureliano’s life. After the death of Jose Arcadio he had become a regular customer at the wise 
Catalonian’s bookstore. Also, the freedom that he enjoyed then and the time at his disposal awoke in 
him a certain curiosity about the town, which he came to know without any surprise. He went 
through the dusty and solitary streets, examining with scientific interest the inside of houses in min, 
the metal screens on the windows broken by mst and the dying birds, and the inhabitants bowed 
down by memories. He tried to reconstruct in his imagination the annihilated splendor of the old 
banana-company town, whose dry swimming pool was filled to the brim with rotting men’s and 
women’s shoes, and in the houses of which, destroyed by rye grass, he found the skeleton of a 
German shepherd dog still tied to a ring by a steel chain and a telephone that was ringing, ringing, 
ringing until he picked it up and an anguished and distant woman spoke in English, and he said yes, 
that the strike was over, that three thousand dead people had been thrown into the sea, that the 
banana company had left, and that Macondo finally had peace after many years. Those wanderings 
led him to the prostrate red-light district, where in other times bundles of banknotes had been 
burned to liven up the revels, and which at that time was a maze of streets more afflicted and 
miserable than the others, with a few red lights still burning and with deserted dance halls adorned 
with the remnants of wreaths, where the pale, fat widows of no one, the French great-grandmothers 
and the Babylonian matriarchs, were still waiting beside their photographs. Aureliano could not find 
anyone who remembered his family, not even Colonel Aureliano Buendia, except for the oldest of 
the West Indian Negroes, an old man whose cottony hair gave him the look of a photographic nega¬ 
tive and who was still singing the mournful sunset psalms in the door of his house. Aureliano would 
talk to him in the tortured Papiamento that he had learned in a few weeks and sometimes he would 
share his chicken-head soup, prepared by the great-granddaughter, with him. She was a large black 
woman with solid bones, the hips of a mare, teats like live melons, and a round and perfect head 
armored with a hard surface of wiry hair which looked like a medieval warrior’s mail headdress. Her 
name was Nigromanta. In those days Aureliano lived off the sale of silverware, candlesticks, and 
other bric-a-brac from the house. When he was penniless, which was most of the time, he got 
people in the back of the market to give him the chicken heads that they were going to throw away 
and he would take them to Nigromanta to make her soups, fortified with purslane and seasoned 
with mint. When the great-grandfather died Aureliano stopped going by the house, but he would run 
into Nigromanta under the dark almond trees on the square, using her wild-animal whistles to lure 
the few night owls. Many times he stayed with her, speaking in Papiamento about chicken-head soup 
and other dainties of misery, and he would have kept right on if she had not let him know that his 



presence frightened off customers. Although he sometimes felt the temptation and although 
Nigromanta herself might have seemed to him as the natural culmination of a shared nostalgia, he 
did not go to bed with her. So Aureliano was still a virgin when Amaranta Ursula returned to 
Macondo and gave him a sisterly embrace that left him breathless. Every time he saw her, and worse 
yet when she showed him the latest dances, he felt the same spongy release in his bones that had 
disturbed his great-great-grandfather when Pilar Ternera made her pretexts about the cards in the 
granary. Trying to squelch the torment, he sank deeper into the parchments and eluded the innocent 
flattery of that aunt who was poisoning his nights with a flow of tribulation, but the more he 
avoided her the more the anxiety with which he waited for her stony laughter, her howls of a happy 
cat, and her songs of gratitude, agonizing in love at all hours and in the most unlikely parts of the 
house. One night thirty feet from his bed, on the silver workbench, the couple with unhinged bellies 
broke the bottles and ended up making love in a pool of muriatic acid. Aureliano not only could not 
sleep for a single second, but he spent the next day with a fever, sobbing with rage. The first night 
that he waited for Nigromanta to come to the shadows of the almond trees it seemed like an 
eternity, pricked as he was by the needles of uncertainty and clutching in his fist the peso and fifty 
cents that he had asked Amaranta Ursula for, not so much because he needed it as to involve her, 
debase her, prostitute her in his adventure in some way. Nigromanta took him to her room, which 
was lighted with false candlesticks, to her folding cot with the bedding stained from bad loves, and 
to her body of a wild dog, hardened and without soul, which prepared itself to dismiss him as if he 
were a frightened child, and suddenly it found a man whose tremendous power demanded a 
movement of seismic readjustment from her insides. 

They became lovers. Aureliano would spend his mornings deciphering parchments and at siesta 
time he would go to the bedroom where Nigromanta was waiting for him, to teach him first how to 
do it like earthworms, then like snails, and finally like crabs, until she had to leave him and lie in wait 
for vagabond loves. Several weeks passed before Aureliano discovered that around her waist she 
wore a small belt that seemed to be made out of a cello string, but which was hard as steel and had 
no end, as if it had been born and grown with her. Almost always, between loves, they would eat 
naked in the bed, in the hallucinating heat and under the daytime stars that the mst had caused to 
shine on the zinc ceiling. It was the first time that Nigromanta had had a steady man, a bone cmsher 
from head to toe, as she herself said, dying with laughter, and she had even begun to get romantic 
illusions when Aureliano confided in her about his repressed passion for Amaranta Ursula, which he 
had not been able to cure with the substitution but which was twisting him inside all the more as 
experience broadened the horizons of love. After that Nigromanta continued to receive him with 
the same warmth as ever but she made him pay for her services so strictly that when Aureliano had 
no money she would make an addition to his bill, which was not figured in numbers but by marks 
that she made with her thumbnail behind the door. At sundown, while she was drifting through the 
shadows in the square, Aureliano, was going along the porch like a stranger, scarcely greeting 
Amaranta Ursula and Gaston, who usually dined at that time, and shutting herself up in his room 
again, unable to read or write or even think because of the anxiety brought on by the laughter, the 
whispering, the preliminary frolics, and then the explosions of agonizing happiness that capped the 
nights in the house. That was his life two years before Gaston began to wait for the airplane, and it 
went on the same way on the afternoon that he went to the bookstore of the wise Catalonian and 
found four ranting boys in a heated argument about the methods used to kill cockroaches in the 
Middle Ages. The old bookseller, knowing about Aureliano’s love for books that had been read only 
by the Venerable Bede, urged him with a certain fatherly malice to get into the discussion, and 
without even taking a breath, he explained that the cockroach, the oldest winged insect on the face 
of the earth, had already been the victim of slippers in the Old Testament, but that since the species 
was definitely resistant to any and all methods of extermination, from tomato dices with borax to 



flour and sugar, and with its one thousand six hundred three varieties had resisted the most ancient, 
tenacious, and pitiless persecution that mankind had unleashed against any living thing since the 
beginnings, including man himself, to such an extent that just as an instinct for reproduction was at¬ 
tributed to humankind, so there must have been another one more definite and pressing, which was 
the instinct to kill cockroaches, and if the latter had succeeded in escaping human ferocity it was 
because they had taken refuge in the shadows, where they became invulnerable because of man’s 
congenital fear of the dark, but on the other hand they became susceptible to the glow of noon, so 
that by the Middle Ages already, and in present times, and per omnia secula seculomm , the only effective 
method for killing cockroaches was the glare of the sun. 

That encyclopedic coincidence was the beginning of a great friendship. Aureliano continued 
getting together in the afternoon with the four arguers, whose names were Alvaro, German, 
Alfonso, and Gabriel, the first and last friends that he ever had in his life. For a man like him, holed 
up in written reality, those stormy sessions that began in the bookstore and ended at dawn in the 
brothels were a revelation. It had never occurred to him until then to think that literature was the 
best plaything that had ever been invented to make fun of people, as Alvaro demonstrated during 
one night of revels. Some time would have to pass before Aureliano realized that such arbitrary 
attitudes had their origins in the example of the wise Catalonian, for whom wisdom was worth 
nothing if it could not be used to invent a way of preparing chick peas. 

The afternoon on which Aureliano gave his lecture on cockroaches, the argument ended up in 
the house of the girls who went to bed because of hunger, a brothel of lies on the outskirts of 
Macondo. The proprietress was a smiling mamasanta , tormented by a mania for opening and closing 
doors. Her eternal smile seemed to have been brought on by the credulity of her customers, who 
accepted as something certain an establishment that did not exist except in the imagination, because 
even the tangible things there were unreal: the furniture that fell apart when one sat on it, the 
disemboweled phonograph with a nesting hen inside, the garden of paper flowers, the calendars 
going back to the years before the arrival of the banana company, the frames with prints cut out of 
magazines that had never been published. Even the timid little whores who came from the neigh¬ 
borhood: when the proprietress informed them that customers had arrived they were nothing but an 
invention. They would appear without any greeting in their little flowered dresses left over from days 
when they were five years younger, and they took them off with the same innocence with which they 
had put them on, and in the paroxysms of love they would exclaim good heavens, look how that 
roof is falling in, and as soon as they got their peso and fifty cents they would spend it on a roll with 
cheese that the proprietress sold them, smiling more than ever, because only she knew that that meal 
was not true either. Aureliano, whose world at that time began with Melquiades’ parchments and 
ended in Nigromanta’s bed, found a stupid cure for timidity in the small imaginary brothel. At first 
he could get nowhere, in rooms where the proprietress would enter during the best moments of love 
and make all sorts of comments about the intimate charms of the protagonists. But with time he 
began to get so familiar with those misfortunes of the world that on one night that was more 
unbalanced than the others he got undressed in the small reception room and ran through the house 
balancing a bottle of beer on his inconceivable maleness. He was the one who made fashionable the 
extravagances that the proprietress celebrated with her eternal smile, without protesting, without 
believing in them just as when German tried to burn the house down to show that it did not exist, 
and as when Alfonso wrung the neck of the parrot and threw it into the pot where the chicken stew 
was beginning to boil. 

Although Aureliano felt himself linked to the four friends by a common affection and a common 
solidarity, even to the point where he thought of them as if they were one person, he was closer to 
Gabriel than to the others. The link was born on the night when he casually mentioned Colonel 
Aureliano Buendia and Gabriel was the only one who did not think that he was making fun of 



somebody. Even the proprietress, who normally did not take part in the conversation argued with a 
madam’s wrathful passion that Colonel Aureliano Buendla, of whom she had indeed heard speak at 
some time, was a figure invented by the government as a pretext for killing Liberals. Gabriel, on the 
other hand, did not doubt the reality of Colonel Aureliano Buendia because he had been a 
companion in arms and inseparable friend of his great-great-grandfather Colonel Gerineldo 
Marquez. Those fickle tricks of memory were even more critical when the killing of the workers was 
brought up. Every time that Aureliano mentioned the matter, not only the proprietress but some 
people older than she would repudiate the myth of the workers hemmed in at the station and the 
train with two hundred cars loaded with dead people, and they would even insist that, after all, 
everything had been set forth in judicial documents and in primary-school textbooks: that the 
banana company had never existed. So that Aureliano and Gabriel were linked by a kind of complic¬ 
ity based on real facts that no one believed in, and which had affected their lives to the point that 
both of them found themselves off course in the tide of a world that had ended and of which only 
the nostalgia remained. Gabriel would sleep wherever time overtook him. Aureliano put him up 
several times in the silver workshop, but he would spend his nights awake, disturbed by the noise of 
the dead people who walked through the bedrooms until dawn. Later he turned him over to 
Nigromanta, who took him to her well-used room when she was free and put down his account with 
vertical marks behind the door in the few spaces left free by Aureliano’s debts. 

In spite of their disordered life, the whole group tried to do something permanent at the urging 
of the wise Catalonian. It was he, with his experience as a former professor of classical literature and 
his storehouse of rare books, who got them to spend a whole night in search of the thirty-seventh 
dramatic situation in a town where no one had any interest any more in going beyond primary 
school. Fascinated by the discovery of friendship, bewildered by the enchantments of a world which 
had been forbidden to him by Fernanda’s meanness, Aureliano abandoned the scmtiny of the 
parchments precisely when they were beginning to reveal themselves as predictions in coded lines of 
poetry. But the subsequent proof that there was time enough for everything without having to give 
up the brothels gave him the drive to return to Melquiades’ room, having decided not to flag in his 
efforts until he had discovered the last keys. That was during the time that Gaston began to wait for 
the airplane and Amaranta Ursula was so lonely that one morning she appeared in the room. 

“Hello, cannibal,” she said to him. “Back in your cave again?” 

She was irresistible, with a dress she had designed and one of the long shad-vertebra necklaces 
that she herself had made. She had stopped using the leash, convinced of her husband’s faithfulness, 
and for the first time since her return she seemed to have a moment of ease. Aureliano did not need 
to see her to know that she had arrived. She put her elbows on the table, so close and so helpless 
that Aureliano heard the deep sound of her bones, and she became interested in the parchments. 
Trying to overcome his disturbance, he grasped at the voice that he was losing, the life that was 
leaving him, the memory that was turning into a petrified polyp, and he spoke to her about the 
priestly destiny of Sanskrit, the scientific possibility of seeing the future showing through in time as 
one sees what is written on the back of a sheet of paper through the light, the necessity of 
deciphering the predictions so that they would not defeat themselves, and the Centuries of 
Nostradamus and the destruction of Cantabria predicted by Saint Milanus. Suddenly, without 
interrupting the chat, moved by an impulse that had been sleeping in him since his origins, 
Aureliano put his hand on hers, thinking that that final decision would put an end to Iris doubts. She 
grabbed his index finger with the affectionate innocence with which she had done so in childhood, 
however, and she held it while he kept on answering questions. They remained like that, linked by 
icy index fingers that did not transmit anything in any way until she awoke from her momentary 
dream and slapped her forehead with her hand. “The ants!” she exclaimed. And then she forgot 
about the manuscripts, went to the door with a dance step, and from there she threw Aureliano a 



kiss with the tips of her fingers as she had said good-bye to her father on the afternoon when they 
sent her to Brussels. 

“You can tell me later,” she said. “I forgot that today’s the day to put quicklime on the anthills.” 

She continued going to the room occasionally when she had something to do in that part of the 
house and she would stay there for a few minutes while her husband continued to scrutinize the sky. 
Encouraged by that change, Aureliano stayed to eat with the family at that time as he had not done 
since the first months of Amaranta Ursula’s return. Gaston was pleased. During the conversations 
after meals, which usually went on for more than an hour, he complained that his partners were 
deceiving him. They had informed him of the loading of the airplane on board a ship that did not 
arrive, and although his shipping agents insisted, that it would never arrive because it was not on the 
list of Caribbean ships, his partners insisted that the shipment was correct and they even insinuated 
that Gaston was lying to them in his letters. The correspondence reached such a degree of mutual 
suspicion that Gaston decided not to write again and he began to suggest the possibility of a quick 
trip to Brussels to clear things up and return with the airplane. The plan evaporated, however, as 
soon as Amaranta Ursula reiterated her decision not to move from Macondo even if she lost a 
husband. During the first days Aureliano shared the general opinion that Gaston was a fool on a 
velocipede, and that brought on a vague feeling of pity. Later, when he obtained deeper information 
on the nature of men in the brothels, he thought that Gaston’s meekness had its origins in unbridled 
passion. But when he came to know him better and realized his tme character was the opposite of 
his submissive conduct, he conceived the malicious suspicion that even the wait for the airplane was 
an act. Then he thought that Gaston was not as foolish as he appeared, but, quite the contrary, was a 
man of infinite steadiness, ability, and patience who had set about to conquer his wife with the 
weariness of eternal agreement, of never saying no, of simulating a limitless conformity, letting her 
become enmeshed in her own web until the day she could no longer bear the tedium of the illusions 
close at hand and would pack the bags herself to go back to Europe. Aureliano’s former pity turned 
into a violent dislike. Gaston’s system seemed so perverse to him, but at the same time so effective, 
that he ventured to warn Amaranta Ursula. She made fun of his suspicions, however, without even 
noticing the heavyweight of love, uncertainty, and jealousy that he had inside. It had not occurred to 
her that she was arousing something more than fraternal affection in Aureliano until she pricked her 
finger trying to open a can of peaches and he dashed over to suck the blood out with an avidity and 
a devotion that sent a chill up her spine. 

“Aureliano!” She laughed, disturbed. “You’re too suspicious to be a good bat.” 

Then Aureliano went all out. Giving her some small, orphaned kisses in the hollow of her 
wounded hand, he opened up the most hidden passageways of his heart and drew out an 
interminable and lacerated intestine, the terrible parasitic animal that had incubated in his mar¬ 
tyrdom. He told her how he would get up at midnight to weep in loneliness and rage over the 
underwear that she had left to dry in the bathroom. He told her about the anxiety with which he had 
asked Nigromanta to howl like a cat and sob gaston gaston gaston in his ear, and with how much 
astuteness he had ransacked her vials of perfume so that he could smell it on the necks of the little 
girls who went to bed because of hunger. Frightened by the passion of that outburst, Amaranta 
Ursula was closing her fingers, contracting them like a shellfish until her wounded hand, free of all 
pain and any vestige of pity, was converted into a knot of emeralds and topazes and stony and 
unfeeling bones. 

“Fool!” she said as if she were spitting. “I’m sailing on the first ship leaving for Belgium.” 

Alvaro had come to the wise Catalonian’s bookstore one of those afternoons proclaiming at the 
top of his lungs his latest discovery: a zoological brothel. It was called The Golden Child and it was 
a huge open air salon through which no less than two hundred bitterns who told the time with a 
deafening cackling strolled at will. In wire pens that surrounded the dance floor and among large 



Amazonian camellias there were herons of different colors, crocodiles as fat as pigs, snakes with 
twelve rattles, and a turtle with a gilded shell who dove in a small artificial ocean. There was a big 
white dog, meek and a pederast, who would give stud services nevertheless in order to be fed. The 
atmosphere had an innocent denseness, as if it had just been created, and the beautiful mulatto girls 
who waited hopelessly among the blood-red petals and the outmoded phonograph records knew 
ways of love that man had left behind forgotten in the earthly paradise. The first night that the 
group visited that greenhouse of illusions the splendid and taciturn old woman who guarded the 
entrance in a wicker rocking chair felt that time was turning back to its earliest origins when among 
the five who were arriving she saw a bony, jaundiced man with Tartar cheekbones, marked forever 
and from the beginning of the world with the pox of solitude. 

“Lord, Lord,” she sighed, “Aureliano!” 

She was seeing Colonel Aureliano Buendia once more as she had seen him in the light of a lamp 
long before the wars, long before the desolation of glory and the exile of disillusionment, that 
remote dawn when he went to her bedroom to give the first command of his life: the command to 
give him love. It was Pilar Ternera. Years before, when she had reached one hundred forty-five years 
of age, she had given up the pernicious custom of keeping track of her age and she went on living in 
the static and marginal time of memories, in a future perfectly revealed and established, beyond the 
futures disturbed by the insidious snares and suppositions of her cards. 

From that night on Aureliano, took refuge in the compassionate tenderness and understanding of 
his unknown great-great-grandmother. Sitting in her wicker rocking chair, she would recall the past, 
reconstmct the grandeur and misfortunes of the family and the splendor of Macondo, which was 
now erased, while Alvaro frightened the crocodiles with his noisy laughter and Alfonso invented 
outlandish stories about the bitterns who had pecked out the eyes of four customers who 
misbehaved the week before, and Gabriel was in the room of the pensive mulatto girl who did not 
collect in money but in letters to a smuggler boyfriend who was in prison on the other side of the 
Orinoco because the border guards had caught him and had made him sit on a chamberpot that 
filled up with a mixture of shit and diamonds. That true brothel, with that maternal proprietress, was 
the world of which Aureliano had dreamed during his prolonged captivity. He felt so well, so close 
to perfect companionship, that he thought of no other refuge on the afternoon on which Amaranta 
Ursula had made his illusions crumble. He was ready to unburden himself with words so that 
someone could break the knots that bound his chest, but he only managed to let out a fluid, warm, 
and restorative weeping in Pilar Ternera’s lap. She let him finish, scratching his head with the tips of 
her fingers, and without his having revealed that he was weeping from love, she recognized 
immediately the oldest sobs in the history of man. 

“It’s all right, child,” she consoled him. “Now tell me who it is.” 

When Aureliano told her, Pilar Ternera let out a deep laugh, the old expansive laugh that ended 
up as a cooing of doves. There was no mystery in the heart of a Buendia that was impenetrable for 
her because a century of cards and experience had taught her that the history of the family was a 
machine with unavoidable repetitions, a turning wheel that would have gone on spilling into eternity 
were it not for the progressive and irremediable wearing of the axle. 

“Don’t worry,” she said, smiling. “Wherever she is right now, she’s waiting for you.” 

It was half past four in the afternoon when Amaranta Ursula came out of her bath. Aureliano 
saw her go by his room with a robe of soft folds and a towel wrapped around her head like a turban. 
He followed her almost on tiptoes, stumbling from dmnkenness, and he went into the nuptial 
bedroom just as she opened the robe and closed it again in fright. He made a silent signal toward the 
next room where the door was half open and where Aureliano knew that Gaston was beginning to 
write a letter. 

“Go away,” she said voicelessly. 



Aureliano, smiled, picked her up by the waist with both hands like a pot of begonias, and 
dropped her on her back on the bed. With a brutal tug he pulled off her bathrobe before she had 
time to resist and he loomed over an abyss of newly washed nudity whose skin color, lines of fuzz, 
and hidden moles had all been imagined in the shadows of the other rooms. Amaranta Ursula 
defended herself sincerely with the astuteness of a wise woman, weaseling her slippery, flexible, and 
fragrant weasel’s body as she tried to knee him in the kidneys and scorpion his face with her nails, 
but without either of them giving a gasp that might not have been taken for that breathing of a 
person watching the meager April sunset through the open window. It was a fierce fight, a battle to 
the death, but it seemed to be without violence because it consisted of distorted attacks and ghostly 
evasions, slow, cautious, solemn, so that during it all there was time for the petunias to bloom and 
for Gaston to forget about his aviator’s dream in the next room, as if they were two enemy lovers 
seeking reconciliation at the bottom of an aquarium. In the heat of that savage and ceremonious 
struggle, Amaranta Ursula understood that her meticulous silence was so irrational that it could 
awaken the suspicions of her nearby husband much more than the sound of warfare that they were 
trying to avoid. Then she began to laugh with her lips tight together, without giving up the fight, but 
defending herself with false bites and deweaseling her body little by little until they both were 
conscious of being adversaries and accomplices at the same time and the affray degenerated into a 
conventional gambol and the attacks became caresses. Suddenly, almost playfully, like one more bit 
of mischief, Amaranta Ursula dropped her defense, and when she tried to recover, frightened by 
what she herself had made possible, it was too late. A great commotion immobilized her in her 
center of gravity, planted her in her place, and her defensive will was demolished by the irresistible 
anxiety to discover what the orange whistles and the invisible globes on the other side of death were 
like. She barely had time to reach out her hand and grope for the towel to put a gag between her 
teeth so that she would not let out the cat howls that were already tearing at her insides. 



Chapter 20 

PILAR TERNERA died in her wicker rocking chair during one night of festivities as she watched over 
the entrance to her paradise. In accordance with her last wishes she was not buried in a coffin but 
sitting in her rocker, which eight men lowered by ropes into a huge hole dug in the center of the 
dance floor. The mulatto girls, dressed in black, pale from weeping, invented shadowy rites as they 
took off their earrings, brooches, and rings and threw them into the pit before it was closed over 
with a slab that bore neither name nor dates, and that was covered with a pile of Amazonian 
camellias. After poisoning the animals they closed up the doors and windows with brick and mortar 
and they scattered out into the world with their wooden trunks that were lined with pictures of 
saints, prints from magazines, and the portraits of sometime sweethearts, remote and fantastic, who 
shat diamonds, or ate cannibals, or were crowned playing-card kings on the high seas. 

It was the end. In Pilar Ternera’s tomb, among the psalm and cheap whore jewelry, the ruins of 
the past would rot, the little that remained after the wise Catalonian had auctioned off his bookstore 
and returned to the Mediterranean village where he had been born, overcome by a yearning for a 
lasting springtime. No one could have foreseen his decision. He had arrived in Macondo during the 
splendor of the banana company, fleeing from one of many wars, and nothing more practical had 
occurred to him than to set up that bookshop of incunabula and first editions in several languages, 
which casual customers would thumb through cautiously, as if they were junk books, as they waited 
their turn to have their dreams interpreted in the house across the way. He spent half his life in the 
back of the store, scribbling in his extra-careful hand in purple ink and on pages that he tore out of 
school notebooks, and no one was sure exactly what he was writing. When Aureliano first met him 
he had two boxes of those motley pages that in some way made one think of Melquiades’ 
parchments, and from that time until he left he had filled a third one, so it was reasonable to believe 
that he had done nothing else during his stay in Macondo. The only people with whom he 
maintained relations were the four friends, whom he had exchanged their tops and kites for books, 
and he set them to reading Seneca and Ovid while they were still in grammar school. He treated the 
classical writers with a household familiarity, as if they had all been his roommates at some period, 
and he knew many tilings that should not have been known, such as the fact that Saint Augustine 
wore a wool jacket under his habit that he did not take off for fourteen years and that Arnaldo of 
Villanova, the necromancer, was impotent since childhood because of a scorpion bite. His fervor for 
the written word was an interweaving of solemn respect and gossipy irreverence. Not even his own 
manuscripts were safe from that dualism. Having learned Catalan in order to translate them, Alfonso 
put a roll of pages in his pockets, which were always full of newspaper clippings and manuals for 
strange trades, and one night he lost them in the house of the little girls who went to bed because of 
hunger. When the wise old grandfather found out, instead of raising a row as had been feared, he 
commented, dying with laughter, that it was the natural destiny of literature. On the other hand, 
there was no human power capable of persuading him not to take along the three boxes when he 
returned to his native village, and he unleashed a string of Carthaginian curses at the railroad 
inspectors who tried to ship them as freight until he finally succeeded in keeping them with him in 
the passenger coach. “The world must be all fucked up,” he said then, “when men travel first class 
and literature goes as freight.” That was the last tiling he was heard to say. He had spent a dark week 
on the final preparations for the trip, because as the hour approached his humor was breaking down 
and things began to be misplaced, and what he put in one place would appear in another, attacked 
by the same elves that had tormented Fernanda. 

“ Collons ,” he would curse. “I shit on Canon Twenty-seven of the Synod of London.” 



German and Aureliano took care of him. They helped him like a child, fastening Inis tickets and 
immigration documents to his pockets with safety pins, making him a detailed list of what he must 
do from the time he left Macondo until he landed in Barcelona, but nonetheless he threw away a 
pair of pants with half of Inis money in it without realizing it. The night before the trip, after nailing 
up the boxes and putting his clothing into the same suitcase that he had brought when he first came, 
he narrowed his clam eyes, pointed with a kind of impudent benediction at the stacks of books with 
which he had endured during his exile, and said to Inis friends: 

“All that shit there I leave to you people!” 

Three months later they received in a large envelope twenty-nine letters and more than fifty 
pictures that he had accumulated during the leisure of the high seas. Although he did not date them, 
the order in which he had written the letters was obvious. In the first ones, with his customary good 
humor, he spoke about the difficulties of the crossing, the urge he had to throw the cargo officer 
overboard when he would not let him keep the three boxes in his cabin, the clear imbecility of a lady 
who was terrified at the number thirteen, not out of superstition but because she thought it was a 
number that had no end, and the bet that he had won during the first dinner because he had 
recognized in the drinking water on board the taste of the nighttime beets by the springs of Lerida. 
With the passage of the days, however, the reality of life on board mattered less and less to him and 
even the most recent and trivial happenings seemed worthy of nostalgia, because as the ship got 
farther away, his memory began to grow sad. That process of nostalgia was also evident in the 
pictures. In the first ones he looked happy, with his sport shirt which looked like a hospital jacket 
and his snowy mane, in an October Caribbean filled with whitecaps. In the last ones he could be 
seen to be wearing a dark coat and a milk scarf, pale in the face, taciturn from absence on the deck 
of a mournful ship that had come to be like a sleepwalker on the autumnal seas. German and Aureli¬ 
ano answered his letters. He wrote so many during the first months that at that time they felt closer 
to him than when he had been in Macondo, and they were almost freed from the rancor that he had 
left behind. At first he told them that everything was just the same, that the pink snails were still in 
the house where he had been born, that the dry herring still had the same taste on a piece of toast, 
that the waterfalls in the village still took on a perfumed smell at dusk. They were the notebook 
pages again, woven with the purple scribbling, in which he dedicated a special paragraph to each 
one. Nevertheless, and although he himself did not seem to notice it, those letters of recuperation 
and stimulation were slowly changing into pastoral letters of disenchantment. One winter night 
while the soup was boiling in the fireplace, he missed the heat of the back of his store, the buzzing 
of the sun on the dusty almond trees, the whistle of the train during the lethargy of siesta time, just 
as in Macondo he had missed the winter soup in the fireplace, the cries of the coffee vendor, and the 
fleeting larks of springtime. Upset by two nostalgias facing each other like two mirrors, he lost his 
marvelous sense of unreality and he ended up recommending to all of them that they leave 
Macondo, that they forget everything he had taught them about the world and the human heart, that 
they shit on Horace, and that wherever they might be they always remember that the past was a lie, 
that memory has no return, that every spring gone by could never be recovered, and that the wildest 
and most tenacious love was an ephemeral truth in the end. 

Alvaro was the first to take the advice to abandon Macondo. He sold everything, even the tame 
jaguar that teased passersby from the courtyard of his house, and he bought an eternal ticket on a 
train that never stopped traveling. In the postcards that he sent from the way stations he would 
describe with shouts the instantaneous images that he had seen from the window of his coach, and it 
was as if he were tearing up and throwing into oblivion some long, evanescent poem: the chimerical 
Negroes in the cotton fields of Louisiana, the winged horses in the bluegrass of Kentucky, the 
Greek lovers in the infernal sunsets of Arizona, the girl in the red sweater painting watercolors by a 
lake in Michigan who waved at him with her bmshes, not to say farewell but out of hope, because 



she did not know that she was watching a train with no return passing by. Then Alfonso and 
German left one Saturday with the idea of coming back on Monday, but nothing more was ever 
heard of them. A year after the departure of the wise Catalonian the only one left in Macondo was 
Gabriel, still adrift at the mercy of Nigromanta’s chancy charity and answering the questions of a 
contest in a French magazine in which the first prize was a trip to Paris. Aureliano, who was the one 
who subscribed to it, helped him fill in the answers, sometimes in his house but most of the time 
among the ceramic bottles and atmosphere of valerian in the only pharmacy left in Macondo, where 
Mercedes, Gabriel’s stealthy girl friend, lived. It was the last that remained of a past whose 
annihilation had not taken place because it was still in a process of annihilation, consuming itself 
from within, ending at every moment but never ending its ending. The town had reached such 
extremes of inactivity that when Gabriel won the contest and left for Paris with two changes of 
clothing, a pair of shoes, and the complete works of Rabelais, he had to signal the engineer to stop 
the train and pick him up. The old Street of the Turks was at that time an abandoned corner where 
the last Arabs were letting themselves be dragged off to death with the age-old custom of sitting in 
their doorways, although it had been many years since they had sold the last yard of diagonal cloth, 
and in the shadowy showcases only the decapitated manikins remained. The banana company’s city, 
which Patricia Brown may have tried to evoke for her grandchildren during the nights of intolerance 
and dill pickles in Prattville, Alabama, was a plain of wild grass. The ancient priest who had taken 
Father Angel’s place and whose name no one had bothered to find out awaited God’s mercy 
stretched out casually in a hammock, tortured by arthritis and the insomnia of doubt while the 
lizards and rats fought over the inheritance of the nearby church. In that Macondo forgotten even 
by the birds, where the dust and the heat had become so strong that it was difficult to breathe, 
secluded by solitude and love and by the solitude of love in a house where it was almost impossible 
to sleep because of the noise of the red ants, Aureliano, and Amaranta Ursula were the only happy 
beings, and the most happy on the face of the earth. 

Gaston had returned to Brussels. Tired of waiting for the airplane, one day he put his 
indispensable things into a small suitcase, took his file of correspondence, and left with the idea of 
returning by air before his concession was turned over to a group of German pilots who had 
presented the provincial authorities with a more ambitious project than his. Since the afternoon of 
their first love, Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula had continued taking advantage of her husband’s 
rare unguarded moments, making love with gagged ardor in chance meetings and almost always 
intermpted by unexpected returns. But when they saw themselves alone in the house they 
succumbed to the delirium of lovers who were making up for lost time. It was a mad passion, 
unhinging, which made Fernanda’s bones tremble with horror in her grave and which kept them in a 
state of perpetual excitement. Amaranta Ursula’s shrieks, her songs of agony would break out the 
same at two in the afternoon on the dining-room table as at two in the morning in the pantry. “What 
hurts me most,” she would say, laughing, “is all the time that we wasted.” In the bewilderment of 
passion she watched the ants devastating the garden, sating their prehistoric hunger with the beam 
of the house, and she watched the torrents of living lava take over the porch again, but she bothered 
to fight them only when she found them in her bedroom. Aureliano abandoned the parchments, did 
not leave the house again, and carelessly answered the letters from the wise Catalonian. They lost 
their sense of reality, the notion of time, the rhythm of daily habits. They closed the doors and 
windows again so as not to waste time getting undressed and they walked about the house as 
Remedios the Beauty had wanted to do and they would roll around naked in the mud of the 
courtyard, and one afternoon they almost drowned as they made love in the cistern. In a short time 
they did more damage than the red ants: they destroyed the furniture in the parlor, in their madness 
they tore to shreds the hammock that had resisted the sad bivouac loves of Colonel Aureliano 
Buendfa and they disemboweled the mattresses and emptied them on the floor as they suffocated in 



storms of cotton. Although Aureliano was just as ferocious a lover as his rival, it was Amaranta 
Ursula who ruled in that paradise of disaster with her mad genius and her lyrical voracity, as if she 
had concentrated in her love the unconquerable energy that her great-great-grandmother had given 
to the making of little candy animals. And yet, while she was singing with pleasure and dying with 
laughter over her own inventions, Aureliano was becoming more and more absorbed and silent, for 
his passion was self-centered and burning. Nevertheless, they both reached such extremes of 
virtuosity that when they became exhausted from excitement, they would take advantage of their 
fatigue. They would give themselves over to the worship of their bodies, discovering that the rest 
periods of love had unexplored possibilities, much richer than those of desire. While he would rub 
Amaranta Ursula’s erect breasts with egg whites or smooth her elastic thighs and peach-like stomach 
with cocoa butter, she would play with Aureliano’s portentous creature as if it were a doll and would 
paint clown’s eyes on it with her lipstick and give it a Turk’s mustache with her eyebrow pencil, and 
would put on organza bow ties and little tinfoil hats. One night they daubed themselves from head 
to toe with peach jam and licked each other like dogs and made mad love on the floor of the porch, 
and they were awakened by a torrent of carnivorous ants who were ready to eat them alive. 

During the pauses in their delirium, Amaranta Ursula would answer Gaston’s letters. She felt him 
to be so far away and busy that his return seemed impossible to her. In one of his first letters he told 
her that his Partners had actually sent the airplane, but that a shipping agent in Bmssels had sent it 
by mistake to Tanganyika, where it was delivered to the scattered tribe of the Makondos. That mix- 
up brought on so many difficulties that just to get the plane back might take two years. So Amaranta 
Ursula dismissed the possibility of an inopportune return. Aureliano, for his part, had no other 
contact with the world except for the letters from the wise Catalonian and the news he had of 
Gabriel through Mercedes, the silent pharmacist. At first they were real contacts. Gabriel had turned 
in his return ticket in order to stay in Paris, selling the old newspapers and empty bottles that the 
chambermaids threw out of a gloomy hotel on the Rue Dauphine. Aureliano could visualize him 
then in a turtleneck sweater which he took off only when the sidewalk Cafes on Montparnasse filled 
with springtime lovers, and sleeping by day and writing by night in order to confuse hunger in the 
room that smelled of boiled cauliflower where Rocamadour was to die. Nevertheless, news about 
him was slowly becoming so uncertain, and the letters from the wise man so sporadic and 
melancholy, that Aureliano grew to think about them as Amaranta Ursula thought about her 
husband, and both of them remained floating in an empty universe where the only everyday and 
eternal reality was love. 

Suddenly, like the stampede in that world of happy unawareness, came the news of Gaston’s 
return. Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula opened their eyes, dug deep into their souls, looked at the 
letter with their hands on their hearts, and understood that they were so close to each other that they 
preferred death to separation. Then she wrote her husband a letter of contradictory truths in which 
she repeated her love and said how anxious she was to see him again, but at the same time she 
admitted as a design of fate the impossibility of living without Aureliano. Contrary to what they had 
expected, Gaston sent them a calm, almost paternal reply, with two whole pages devoted to a 
warning against the fickleness of passion and a final paragraph with unmistakable wishes for them to 
be as happy as he had been during his brief conjugal experience. It was such an unforeseen attitude 
that Amaranta Ursula felt humiliated by the idea that she had given her husband the pretext that he 
had wanted in order to abandon her to her fate. The rancor was aggravated six months later when 
Gaston wrote again from Leopoldville, where he had finally recovered the airplane, simply to ask 
them to ship him the velocipede, which of all that he had left behind in Macondo was the only thing 
that had any sentimental value for him. Aureliano bore Amaranta Ursula’s spite patiently and made 
an effort to show her that he could be as good a husband in adversity as in prosperity, and the daily 
needs that besieged them when Gaston’s last money ran out created a bond of solidarity between 



them that was not as dazzling and heady as passion, but that let them make love as much and be as 
happy as during their uproarious and salacious days. At the time Pilar Ternera died they were 
expecting a child. 

In the lethargy of her pregnancy, Amaranta Ursula tried to set up a business in necklaces made 
out of the backbones of fish. But except for Mercedes, who bought a dozen, she could not find any 
customers. Aureiiano was aware for the first time that his gift for languages, his encyclopedic 
knowledge, his rare faculty for remembering the details of remote deeds and places without having 
been there, were as useless as the box of genuine jewelry that his wife owned, which must have been 
worth as much as all the money that the last inhabitants of Macondo could have put together. They 
survived miraculously. Although Amaranta Ursula did not lose her good humor or her genius for 
erotic mischief, she acquired the habit of sitting on the porch after lunch in a kind of wakeful and 
thoughtful siesta. Aureiiano would accompany her. Sometimes they would remain there in silence 
until nightfall, opposite each other, looking into each other’s eyes, loving each other as much as in 
their scandalous days. The uncertainty of the future made them turn their hearts toward the past. 
They saw themselves in the lost paradise of the deluge, splashing in the puddles in the courtyard, 
killing lizards to hang on Ursula, pretending that they were going to bury her alive, and those 
memories revealed to them the truth that they had been happy together ever since they had had 
memory. Going deeper into the past, Amaranta Ursula remembered the afternoon on which she had 
gone into the silver shop and her mother told her that little Aureiiano was nobody’s child because he 
had been found floating in a basket. Although the version seemed unlikely to them, they did not 
have any information enabling them to replace it with the true one. All that they were sure of after 
examining an the possibilities was that Fernanda was not Aureliano’s mother. Amaranta Ursula was 
inclined to believe that he was the son of Petra Cotes, of whom she remembered only tales of 
infamy, and that supposition produced a twinge of horror in her heart. 

Tormented by the certainty that he was Iris wife’s brother, Aureiiano ran out to the parish house 
to search through the moldy and moth-eaten archives for some clue to his parentage. The oldest 
baptismal certificate that he found was that of Amaranta Buendfa, baptized in adolescence by Father 
Nicanor Reyna during the time when he was trying to prove the existence of God by means of tricks 
with chocolate. He began to have that feeling that he was one of the seventeen Aurelianos, whose 
birth certificates he tracked down as he went through four volumes, but the baptism dates were too 
far back for his age. Seeing him lost in the labyrinths of kinship, trembling with uncertainty, the arth¬ 
ritic priest, who was watching him from his hammock, asked him compassionately what his name 

“Aureiiano Buendfa,” he said. 

“Then don’t wear yourself out searching,” the priest exclaimed with final conviction. “Many years 
ago there used to be a street here with that name and in those days people had the custom of 
naming their children after streets.” 

Aureiiano trembled with rage. 

“So!” he said. “You don’t believe it either.” 

“Believe what?” 

“That Colonel Aureiiano, Buendfa fought thirty-two civil wars and lost them all,” Aureiiano 
answered. “That the army hemmed in and machine-gunned three thousand workers and that their 
bodies were carried off to be thrown into the sea on a train with two hundred cars.” 

The priest measured him with a pitying look. 

“Oh, my son,” he signed. “It’s enough for me to be sure that you and I exist at this moment.” 

So Aureiiano and Amaranta Ursula accepted the version of the basket, not because they believed 
it, but because it spared them their terror. As the pregnancy advanced they were becoming a single 
being, they were becoming more and more integrated in the solitude of a house that needed only 



one last breath to be knocked down. They restricted themselves to an essential area, from 
Fernanda’s bedroom, where the charms of sedentary love were visible, to the beginning of the 
porch, where Amaranta Ursula would sit to sew bootees and bonnets for the newborn baby and 
Aureliano, would answer the occasional letters from the wise Catalonian. The rest of the house was 
given over to the tenacious assault of destmction. The silver shop, Melquiades’ room, the primitive 
and silent realm of Santa Sofia de la Piedad remained in the depths of a domestic jungle that no one 
would have had the courage to penetrate. Surrounded by the voracity of nature, Aureliano and 
Amaranta Ursula continued cultivating the oregano and the begonias and defended their world with 
demarcations of quicklime, building the last trenches in the age-old war between man and ant. Her 
long and neglected hair, the splotches that were beginning to appear on her face, the swelling of her 
legs, the deformation of her former lovemaking weasel’s body had changed Amaranta Ursula from 
the youthful creature she had been when she arrived at the house with the cage of luckless canaries 
and her captive husband, but it did not change the vivacity of her spirit. “Shit,” she would say, 
laughingly. “Who would have thought that we really would end up living like cannibals!” The last 
thread that joined them to the world was broken on the sixth month of pregnancy when they 
received a letter that obviously was not from the wise Catalonian. It had been mailed in Barcelona, 
but the envelope was addressed in conventional blue ink by an official hand and it had the innocent 
and impersonal look of hostile messages. Aureliano snatched it out of Amaranta Ursula’s hands as 
she was about to open it. 

“Not this one,” he told her. “I don’t want to know what it says.” 

Just as he had sensed, the wise Catalonian did not write again. The stranger’s letter, which no one 
read, was left to the mercy of the moths on the shelf where Fernanda had forgotten her wedding 
ring on occasion and there it remained, consuming itself in the inner fire of its bad news as the 
solitary lovers sailed against the tide of those days of the last stages, those impenitent and ill-fated 
times which were squandered on the useless effort of making them drift toward the desert of 
disenchantment and oblivion. Aware of that menace, Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula spent the hot 
months holding hands, ending with the love of loyalty for the child who had his beginning in the 
madness of fornication. At night, holding each other in bed, they were not frightened by the 
sublunary explosions of the ants or the noise of the moths or the constant and clean whistle of the 
growth of the weeds in the neighboring rooms. Many times they were awakened by the traffic of the 
dead. They could hear Ursula fighting against the laws of creation to maintain the line, and Jose 
Arcadio Buendia searching for the mythical truth of the great inventions, and Fernanda praying, and 
Colonel Aureliano Buendia stupefying himself with the deception of war and the little gold fishes, 
and Aureliano Segundo dying of solitude in the turmoil of his debauches, and then they learned that 
dominant obsessions can prevail against death and they were happy again with the certainty that they 
would go on loving each other in their shape as apparitions long after other species of future animals 
would steal from the insects the paradise of misery that the insects were finally stealing from man. 

One Sunday, at six in the afternoon, Amaranta Ursula felt the pangs of childbirth. The smiling 
mistress of the little girls who went to bed because of hunger had her get onto the dining-room 
table, straddled her stomach, and mistreated her with wild gallops until her cries were drowned out 
by the bellows of a formidable male child. Through her tears Amaranta Ursula could see that he was 
one of those great Buendias, strong and willful like the Jose Arcadios, with the open and clairvoyant 
eyes of the Aurelianos, and predisposed to begin the race again from the beginning and cleanse it of 
its pernicious vices and solitary calling, for he was the only one in a century who had been 
engendered with love. 

“He’s a real cannibal.” she said. “We’ll name him Rodrigo.” 

“No,” her husband countered. “We’ll name him Aureliano and he’ll win thirty-two wars.” 



After cutting the umbilical cord, the midwife began to use a cloth to take off the blue grease that 
covered his body as Aureliano held up a lamp. Only when they turned him on his stomach did they 
see that he had something more than other men, and they leaned over to examine him. It was the 
tail of a pig. 

They were not alarmed. Aureliano and Amaranta Ursula were not aware of the family precedent, 
nor did they remember Ursula’s frightening admonitions, and the midwife pacified them with the 
idea that the tail could be cut off when the child got his second teeth. Then they had no time to 
think about it again, because Amaranta Ursula was bleeding in an uncontainable torrent. They tried 
to help her with applications of spider webs and balls of ash, but it was like trying to hold back a 
spring with one’s hands. During the first hours she tried to maintain her good humor. She took the 
frightened Aureliano by the hand and begged him not to worry, because people like her were not 
made to die against their will, and she exploded with laughter at the ferocious remedies of the 
midwife. But as Aureliano’s hope abandoned him she was becoming less visible, as if the light on her 
were fading away, until she sank into drowsiness. At dawn on Monday they brought a woman who 
recited cauterizing prayers that were infallible for man and beast beside her bed, but Amaranta 
Ursula’s passionate blood was insensible to any artifice that did not come from love. In the after¬ 
noon, after twenty-four hours of desperation, they knew that she was dead because the flow had 
stopped without remedies and her profile became sharp and the blotches on her face evaporated in a 
halo of alabaster and she smiled again. 

Aureliano did not understand until then how much he loved his friends, how much he missed 
them, and how much he would have given to be with them at that moment. He put the child in the 
basket that his mother had prepared for him, covered the face of the corpse with a blanket, and 
wandered aimlessly through the town, searching for an entrance that went back to the past. He 
knocked at the door of the pharmacy, where he had not visited lately, and he found a carpenter 
shop. The old woman who opened the door with a lamp in her hand took pity on his delirium and 
insisted that, no, there had never been a pharmacy there, nor had she ever known a woman with a 
thin neck and sleepy eyes named Mercedes. He wept, leaning his brow against the door of the wise 
Catalonian’s former bookstore, conscious that he was paying with his tardy sobs for a death that he 
had refused to weep for on time so as not to break the spell of love. He smashed his fists against the 
cement wall of The Golden Child, calling for Pilar Ternera, indifferent to the luminous orange disks 
that were crossing the sky and that so many times on holiday nights he had contemplated with 
childish fascination from the courtyard of the curlews. In the last open salon of the tumbledown 
red-light district an accordion group was playing the songs of Rafael Escalona, the bishop’s nephew, 
heir to the secrets of Francisco the Man. The bartender, who had a withered and somewhat 
crumpled arm because he had raised it against his mother, invited Aureliano to have a bottle of cane 
liquor, and Aureliano then bought him one. The bartender spoke to him about the misfortune of his 
arm. Aureliano spoke to him about the misfortune of his heart, withered and somewhat crumpled 
for having been raised against his sister. They ended up weeping together and Aureliano felt for a 
moment that the pain was over. But when he was alone again in the last dawn of Macondo, he 
opened up his arms in the middle of the square, ready to wake up the whole world, and he shouted 
with all his might: 

“Friends are a bunch of bastards!” 

Nigromanta rescued him from a pool of vomit and tears. She took him to her room, cleaned him 
up, made him drink a cup of broth. Thinking that it would console him, she took a piece of charcoal 
and erased the innumerable loves that he still owed her for, and she voluntarily brought up her own 
most solitary sadnesses so as not to leave him alone in his weeping. When he awoke, after a dull and 
brief sleep, Aureliano recovered the awareness of his headache. He opened his eyes and remembered 
the child. 



He could not find the basket. At first he felt an outburst of joy, thinking that Amaranta Ursula 
had awakened from death to take care of the child. But her corpse was a pile of stones under the 
blanket. Aware that when he arrived he had found the -door to the bedroom open, Aureliano went 
across the porch which was saturated with the morning sighs of oregano and looked into the dining 
room, where the remnants of the birth still lay: the large pot, the bloody sheets, the jars of ashes, and 
the twisted umbilical cord of the child on an opened diaper on the table next to the shears and the 
fishline. The idea that the midwife had returned for the child during the night gave him a pause of 
rest in which to think. He sank into the rocking chair, the same one in which Rebeca had sat during 
the early days of the house to give embroidery lessons, and in which Amaranta had played Chinese 
checkers with Colonel Gerineldo Marquez, and in which Amaranta Ursula had sewn the tiny 
clothing for the child, and in that flash of lucidity he became aware that he was unable to bear in his 
soul the crushing weight of so much past. Wounded by the fatal lances of his own nostalgia and that 
of others, he admired the persistence of the spider webs on the dead rose bushes, the perseverance 
of the rye grass, the patience of the air in the radiant February dawn. And then he saw the child. It 
was a dry and bloated bag of skin that all the ants in the world were dragging toward their holes 
along the stone path in the garden. Aureliano could not move. Not because he was paralyzed by 
horror but because at that prodigious instant Melqufades’ final keys were revealed to him and he saw 
the epigraph of the parchments perfectly placed in the order of man’s time and space: The first of the 
line is tied to a tree and the last is being eaten by the ants. 

Aureliano, had never been more lucid in any act of his life as when he forgot about his dead ones 
and the pain of his dead ones and nailed up the doors and windows again with Fernanda’s crossed 
boards so as not to be disturbed by any temptations of the world, for he knew then that his fate was 
written in Melqufades’ parchments. He found them intact among the prehistoric plants and steaming 
puddles and luminous insects that had removed all trace of man’s passage on earth from the room, 
and he did not have the calmness to bring them out into the light, but right there, standing, without 
the slightest difficulty, as if they had been written in Spanish and were being read under the dazzling 
splendor of high noon, he began to decipher them aloud. It was the history of the family, written by 
Melqufades, down to the most trivial details, one hundred years ahead of time. He had written it in 
Sanskrit, which was his mother tongue, and he had encoded the even lines in the private cipher of 
the Emperor Augustus and the odd ones in a Lacedemonian military code. The final protection, 
which Aureliano had begun to glimpse when he let himself be confused by the love of Amaranta 
Ursula, was based on the fact that Melqufades had not put events in the order of man’s conventional 
time, but had concentrated a century of daily episodes in such a way that they coexisted in one 
instant. Fascinated by the discovery, Aureliano, read aloud without skipping the chanted encyclicals 
that Melqufades himself had made Arcadio listen to and that were in reality the prediction of his 
execution, and he found the announcement of the birth of the most beautiful woman in the world 
who was rising up to heaven in body and soul, and he found the origin of the posthumous twins 
who gave up deciphering the parchments, not simply through incapacity and lack of drive, but also 
because their attempts were premature. At that point, impatient to know his own origin, Aureliano 
skipped ahead. Then the wind began, warm, incipient, full of voices from the past, the murmurs of 
ancient geraniums, sighs of disenchantment that preceded the most tenacious nostalgia. He did not 
notice it because at that moment he was discovering the first indications of his own being in a 
lascivious grandfather who let himself be frivolously dragged along across a hallucinated plateau in 
search of a beautiful woman who would not make him happy. Aureliano recognized him, he pursued 
the hidden paths of his descent, and he found the instant of his own conception among the 
scorpions and the yellow butterflies in a sunset bathroom where a mechanic satisfied Iris lust on a 
woman who was giving herself out of rebellion. He was so absorbed that he did not feel the second 
surge of wind either as its cyclonic strength tore the doors and windows off their hinges, pulled off 



the roof of the east wing, and uprooted the foundations. Only then did he discover that Amaranta 
Ursula was not his sister but his aunt, and that Sir Francis Drake had attacked Riohacha only so that 
they could seek each other through the most intricate labyrinths of blood until they would engender 
the mythological animal that was to bring the line to an end. Macondo was already a fearful 
whirlwind of dust and mbble being spun about by the wrath of the biblical hurricane when 
Aureliano skipped eleven pages so as not to lose time with facts he knew only too well, and he 
began to decipher the instant that he was living, deciphering it as he lived it, prophesying himself in 
the act of deciphering the last page of the parchments, as if he were looking into a speaking mirror. 
Then he skipped again to anticipate the predictions and ascertain the date and circumstances of his 
death. Before reaching the final line, however, he had already understood that he would never leave 
that room, for it was foreseen that the city of mirrors (or mirages) would be wiped out by the wind 
and exiled from the memory of men at the precise moment when Aureliano Babilonia would finish 
deciphering the parchments, and that everything written on them was unrepeatable since time 
immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not 
have a second opportunity on earth.